After a 48-hour internal investigation that cleared a Dawson County sheriffs deputy of any wrongdoing in the arrest of a Roswell woman videotaping a GOP rally last month, a steady stream of eyewitnesses continues to be interviewed, and the department has tightened its deputies dress code.
Capt. Tony Wooten was placed on paid leave Wednesday, Aug. 27, amidst allegations from Nydia Tisdale, 51, that she was inappropriately touched during her arrest Aug. 23 at Burts Pumpkin Farm in northwestern Dawson County.
Also at issue were questions of whether Wooten was on- or off-duty.
Tony (Wooten) is a salaried employee who was on-duty working security at Burts, Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle, said. Clint Bearden called him and asked if he could work security. He came and asked me if it would be all right, and I told him yes.
Bearden is the former chair of the Dawson County Republican Party.
At the time of Tisdales arrest, Wooten was wearing a Class C sheriffs department uniform that included khaki pants, a black polo shirt with department logo, a badge, and firearm.
In an online video, Tisdale can be heard shouting for Wooten to identify himself.
A Class C uniform does not include a full duty belt, which would have handcuffs.
Tisdale apparently was not handcuffed until other officers arrived on the scene, Carlisle said.
From now on, any officers working extra duty, or extra security, will be in full uniform -- Class B, he said. I dont want any questions asked as to who you are. We always learn from past experiences, and we havent had any problems at a political rally of any kind, and Ive been here 18 years.
We have dress codes in place already, but were tightening them up.
Class B uniforms include short-sleeved, black uniform, badge, radio, firearm, extra ammunition, taser, pepper spray, handcuffs, ASP baton (an expandable baton), flashlight and glove pouch. Officers must be certified and trained to use a taser and pepper spray, Carlisle said.
Class A uniforms are similar to Class B, but include long sleeves and tie for court appearances.
The sheriffs departments internal investigation cleared Wooten in less than 48 hours. Three or four eyewitnesses were interviewed, according to Carlisle.
Its not unusual for us to complete an investigation that quickly, Carlisle said Monday. It all depends on how fast we can get statements from people. And, when theres an allegation against an officer, you move quickly. You either want to clear the officer or prove there was a policy violation or a violation of the law.
Since then, other witnesses have come forward or been contacted by the sheriffs department, including Dawson County Republican Party Chair Linda Clary-Umberger.
Clary-Umberger was one of several eyewitnesses inside a barn where Tisdale was taken after her arrest.
I was shocked that I wasnt contacted when they were doing the internal investigation, she said. I was right there in the barn with them.
The internal investigation, Carlisle said, is still open and active.
This investigation isnt different than any other one, he said. Any case file can go inactive for a few days or weeks, then you come up with a new person to talk to or a new lead. I havent heard anything that would make me change my mind about reinstating Tony (Wooten). We want to talk to every eyewitness whos willing to come forward.
Clary-Umberger and her attorney, Catherine Bernard, met Friday with Investigator Greg Edwards and Major Ray Goodie.
The internal investigation is completely separate from the criminal investigation, Carlisle said. It focuses on the allegations made against our officer. Were not doing anything with the criminal part yet.
Details of the internal investigation will not be released until it is completed.
Any investigation is open and on-going until it goes to trial, Carlisle said.
Dawson County District Attorney Lee Darragh was reached for comment on the criminal charges against Tisdale.
The case is in my office for consideration as to whether a grand jury presentation would be appropriate within the September term of court which lasts until March 2015, he said.
Tisdale has been charged with felony obstruction of an officer and criminal trespass. If convicted, the felony charge carries a penalty of not less than one year, and no more than five years, in jail. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor and carries up to a $1,000 fine and/or 12 months in prison.
Among others at the GOP rally was Gov. Nathan Deal. His son, Dawson County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal has recused himself from any proceedings dealing with the case, according to Carlisle.