Counsel for a citizen journalist facing criminal charges over a ruckus at a political rally in 2014 has filed a motion in an attempt to have the local district attorney disqualified from prosecuting the case.
Attorney Bruce Harvey says the criminal indictment against his client, Nydia Tisdale, should also be dismissed because Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh, who personally presented the case to a Dawson County Grand Jury, has a conflict of interest.
Tisdale was arrested Aug. 23, 2014, after she refused to stop videoing a political rally at Burt's Pumpkin Farm in northwestern Dawson County and leave the property when requested.
Initially booked on felony obstruction of an officer and misdemeanor criminal trespass charges, authorities later added misdemeanor obstruction of officer to the counts against her.
She was indicted on the charges in November and pleaded not guilty to all counts in March.
In August, Tisdale filed notice that a lawsuit against the Dawson County Sheriff's Office and Dawson County Board of Commissioners was looming unless a settlement could be reached in the case.
The notice said Tisdale is seeking $550,000.
"Upon information and belief, District Attorney Darragh is paid a supplement to his statutory salary by Dawson County," Harvey's motion stated. "Should Dawson County have to pay a significant settlement/judgment out of the county funds, Mr. Darragh may lose his supplemental salary. He, thus, has a direct financial interest in the prosecution and/or settlement of this cause."
According to Harvey, the financial interest is a conflict of interest sufficient to disqualify Darragh.
Harvey has requested an evidentiary hearing for the motion, asking the court to enter an order disqualifying Darragh and any member of his staff who has participated in the investigation and presentation of case.
"Additionally, since District Attorney Darragh personally presented this cause to the Dawson County Grand Jury, the above numbered indictment should be dismissed as it was presented by a prosecutor with a direct financial interest in the outcome," Harvey said.
Darragh declined to comment on Friday due to "the pendency of the criminal case."
A motions hearing is set for 10 a.m. July 5 at the Dawson County Courthouse.
Tisdale also recently filed a suit in federal court against the three Dawson County Sheriff's deputies involved in her arrest.
The civil suit claims her First, Fourth and 14th Amendments were violated in the arrest.
Capt. Tony Wooten, Cpl. Russell Smith and Cpl. Laura Bishop were personally named in the suit.
The claims allege Wooten violated Tisdale's First Amendment when he shut down her filming of the event.
Johnny Burt, who owns the popular pumpkin patch near Amicalola Falls State Park, has maintained he instructed Wooten to have Tisdale stop recording.
When she refused, Burt said he ordered Wooten to make her leave.
Tisdale counters that she had told Burt's wife, Kathy, when she got to the farm, of her intention to record the speakers.
The Burts said they were misled to believe Tisdale was at the event as part of Gov. Nathan Deal's entourage.
Had she cooperated with the request to stop recording, Burt said she could have stayed.
Wooten, currently one of two candidates running for Dawson County sheriff, was working security at the political event.
Sheriff Billy Carlisle said Wooten was wearing a department-issued black polo shirt with the Dawson County Sheriff's logo on the front left side, as well as his badge and a visible firearm.
Wooten was placed on leave following the arrest while internal affairs investigated, but was reinstated to his full capacity when it was determined he followed departmental protocol when arresting Tisdale.
Wooten said department policy dictates he cannot discuss the case.