By Allie Dean
Nydia Tisdale testified Friday that she felt “pain and terror” when she was forcibly removed by a law enforcement officer from an August 2014 political rally.
“With him pushing his groin against my buttocks, I felt like I was being raped with my clothes on,” Tisdale said.
Self-proclaimed citizen journalist Tisdale took the stand in her criminal trial Friday afternoon, offering her version of events leading to her arrest at a GOP rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville.
Facing charges of obstruction of an officer and criminal trespass, Tisdale described discovering the page for the event on Facebook, tweeting at candidates to help spread the word about the rally and researching the farm, which she had never visited.
Tisdale, who for years has videotaped political events and open meetings and uploaded the videos to her YouTube channel, said her intention when she arrived at the farm was simple.
“I wanted to hear the speeches, I wanted to video record the speeches, and I wanted to post the speeches,” Tisdale said.
A conversation that she had with Burt’s Farm co-owner Kathy Burt upon her arrival assured her she had permission to film, she said.
“There was agreement. OK. No objection,” she said.
Burt previously testified that she welcomed Tisdale and told her to make herself at home. During a short conversation, Burt said Tisdale informed her she was “there to film for the governor.”
The trouble began, Tisdale said, when she was confronted by three men who, on separate occasions, asked her to stop filming the candidates speaking at the rally. She said she never looked at them nor heeded their requests, keeping her eyes on her viewfinder.
The third man to approach her was then-Capt. Tony Wooten with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.
Tisdale said she did not see Wooten, nor did he identify himself before he pulled her from her chair and “frogmarched” her into a nearby barn.
“He slammed me up against the counter and bent me over and held me there … with his body against my body,” Tisdale said.
Tisdale has threatened previously to file sexual assault charges against Wooten, who she said left bruises on her pelvic region from pressing her against the counter.
When previously asked by prosecutors if he pressed his groin against Tisdale’s buttocks, Wooten denied the allegation.
Wooten also previously testified that Tisdale was uncooperative when he escorted her from the rally.
”She was trying to resist and get away the entire time,” Wooten said. “I was kicked in the shins a couple times … I was also struck with an elbow in the face.”
Earlier this week, the prosecution played the entirety of a 911 phone call made by a woman at the rally in which the caller told the operator that Tisdale was resisting arrest and that she feared for Wooten’s safety.
Tisdale said she didn’t understand why she was taken from the rally and held by a “mystery man” in the barn when she felt she had obtained permission from Kathy Burt to film.
Tisdale’s attorney Catherine Bernard asked Tisdale a hypothetical: If the Burts had asked you to leave, would you have left?
“Certainly, but that request was never made,” Tisdale said. “No one ever asked me to leave.”
Tisdale’s testimony followed prominent Republicans, including Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who attested they had not been intimidated by Tisdale recording.
But when Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer recalled to the stand Clint Bearden, a local attorney who has been recognized as the de-facto organizer of the event, Bearden said it was Hudgens who decided it wasn’t OK for Tisdale to film.
“Mr. Hudgens was upset about someone videotaping him,” Bearden testified, recalling a conversation he, Wooten and others had with Hudgens and his wife as Hudgens prepared to leave for another event. “Mr. Hudgens kept saying he wanted to get the video tape.”
On Thursday, Hudgens answered ‘no’ to Bernard’s question about whether Tisdale’s filming intimidated him or made him want to stop talking.
“I have never seen anybody misrepresent their stance as much as Michelle Nunn did,” Hudgens says on the Tisdale video. “I thought I was going to absolutely puke listening to her.”
He is then seen pointing at the camera.
“I don’t know why you’re filming, but yes I said that,” Hudgens appears to tell Tisdale.
Hudgens’ concerns prompted a campaign staffer to go up to Tisdale and ask her to stop filming, Bearden said. When the staffer returned unsuccessful in getting Tisdale to stop, Bearden said he approached the property owners, Johnny and Kathy Burt.
“(Mr. Burt) wasn’t angry, he was just like, ‘OK, just ask her to stop filming, ask her to turn off her camera … tell her if she turns off her camera she can stay,’” Bearden said.
Bearden then said he approached Tisdale, identified himself as a representative of the property owners and said they would like her to stop filming.
Tisdale maintains that neither the campaign staffer, Bearden or Wooten identified themselves to her when asking her to stop filming.
“No one provided their identity,” Tisdale said. “They gave me no information about who they were or what authority they had to make any of these requests.”
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Monday with closing statements.