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Dawson deputies respond to citizen journalists federal lawsuit
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Dawson County Sheriff's officers named in a federal lawsuit by a Roswell citizen journalist have responded, claiming her "alleged injuries and damages were proximately caused by her intentional, criminal actions," according to court documents filed last week.

Nydia Tisdale filed the complaint May 10 in U.S. District Court in Gainesville, claiming her constitutional rights were violated at an Aug. 23, 2014, political event at Burt's Farm in Dawsonville.

Tisdale recorded Georgia Republican officials at the event before she was arrested by Dawson County law enforcement.

Capt. Tony Wooten and Cpl. Russell Smith responded Thursday through attorney Terry Williams, denying the majority of the allegations listed in Tisdale's complaint.

In her complaint, Tisdale claims Wooten dragged her away from the event without identifying himself before being transported to the jail. The force used allegedly "broke the tips off of the heels of Ms. Tisdale's shoes," according to court documents.

In the response, the defendants claim Tisdale "was aggressively yelling at Capt. Wooten and asking who he was, even though she knew he was a deputy from his shirt identifying him as a Dawson County Sheriff's Office deputy, his holstered weapon, and his badge clipped to his belt."

In addition, Wooten and Smith claim Tisdale's "obstructive and assaultive conduct caused any damage to her shoes, as she was jumping around and kicking at (Wooten)."

Tisdale also claims her constitutional rights were violated when her video footage was seized and allegedly edited.

The defendants admitted that Wooten seized the camera to have it logged into evidence, "as he believed it contained evidence related to Ms. Tisdale's criminal actions."

The civil lawsuit claims the defendants are liable for damages "not less than $1,000 plus attorney's fees."

However, the defendants in their individual capacities are protected by immunity, according to William's response.

"... at all times relevant hereto, they were performing objectively reasonable, discretionary acts within the course and scope of their discretionary duties as public officers and did not violate a clearly established federal right of which a reasonable person would have known," the court document read.

As for the criminal charges against Tisdale, she is set to be in court for a motions hearing July 5.

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.

Counsel for Tisdale 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 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.

Darragh has declined to comment due to "the pendency of the criminal case."

Tisdale was indicted on the charges in November and pleaded not guilty to all counts in March.

In August, she 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.

Staff writer Michele Hester contributed to this story.