A Roswell woman videotaping a local Republican meet-and-greet was arrested for ignoring a request to turn off her camera.
Nydia Tisdale was charged with criminal trespass and felony obstruction of an officer.
The event was held on private property at Burts Pumpkin Farm in northwestern Dawson County.
If convicted on the felony charge, Tisdale may face a penalty of not less than one year and no more than five years in prison, Sheriff Billy Carlisle said.Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor and carries up to a $1,000 fine and/or 12 months in jail.
Burts Pumpkin Farm owner Johnny Burt said Tisdale was asked to stop recording and to leave the property.
It was my call, Burt said. When she first got there, she told my wife and daughter she was with the governors office, and she lied. She misrepresented herself. She came with the intent of making trouble and she did.
After her arrest, Tisdale said she had spoken with Kathy Burt.
I told her when I first arrived that I was filming, and she said, Well, I thought you were with the governor. I told her I wasnt with the governor, but that I had filmed him previously.
During candidate speeches, Tisdale was seated in the front row videotaping.
She was right up in everybodys face filming, making everyone uncomfortable, Burt said. We wanted an open discussion. And I asked Tony (Wooten) to have her cut off the video, and she refused.
Burt said he gave Wooten,who is captain and public information officer for the Dawson County Sheriffs Department,a signal to remove her from the property. Wooten was in uniform and on-duty at the event.
He did exactly what I asked him to do, and she started screaming and doing crazy stuff, Burt said. I didnt want her to be arrested. But when I saw her slap Tony, at that point, there was nothing I could do when you assault an officer.
In attendance were several from the GOP ticket: Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal, U.S. Senate Candidate David Perdue, Attorney General Sam Olens, Congressman Doug Collins (9th district), Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, state school superintendent candidate Richard Woods, Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
Its unfortunate, Burt said. The governor, David Perdue, Sam Olens, none of them had anything to do with it.
Attorney Clint Bearden, a former chair of the Dawson County Republican Party, emceed the event.
In an audio posted by FetchYourNews.com, Tisdale can be heard shouting for Wooten to identify himself. Wooten said he was upholding the law.
People have property rights, he said. If the owners ask somebody to leave their property, they have a right to do that. Im here upholding the law. She could have chosen to leave.
The incident occurred as Butler was speaking. He commented: Ive been in politics a long time. Im used to this sort of thing.
Attorney General Sam Olens, however, took the incident more seriously.
Let me be possibly politically incorrect here for a second, Olens said. If we stand for anything as a party, what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera filming us? What are we saying that shouldnt be on film? What message are we sending? ... What is the harm?The harm this poses is far greater than her filming us. ... If we are telling you why we are running and what we stand for, what are we hiding?
Olens statements were confirmed by his campaign spokesperson, Sheri Kell.
Burt said after Tisdales arrest, Olens sat down next to him and advised him to drop any charges.
If I were you, Burt said quoting Olens, Id drop all this.
NYDIA TISDALES SIDE
Tisdale was reached for comment Sunday afternoon.
I got there early and met the owner, Kathy Burt, she said. ... I introduced myself. I was wearing a name badge with a picture of my video camera on it.
Tisdale said she doesnt know why she was asked to leave.
When candidates speeches began, I started filming, she said. Someone came up and sat next to me and didnt identify himself. He just said, You cant record.
Tisdale said she had spoken to several candidates earlier and had permission to film.
No one objected, she said.
Referring to Wooten, she said he acted inappropriately.
He pushed me up and bent me over a (wooden) counter and pushed his body against my backside. ... He pushed up against my rear end. I think it was inappropriate. He didnt need to be pushing his body into mine.
Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle responded.
If she believes she was inappropriately touched, I encourage her to come in and file a complaint, and Ill start an investigation.
Tisdale was taken to the Dawson County Jail, and her video camera confiscated.
He (Wooten) said he was keeping it as evidence, Tisdale said. If I dont have my camera, I cant work.
Carlisle said the camera is being kept as evidence because Tisdale filmed an arrest.
Tisdale bonded out of jail for $6,200 and was released at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday.
She has a degree in business from North Carolina State, but apparently no formal training as a journalist.She currently lives in Roswell.
Its just been in the last five years that I started filming meetings, she said.
Tisdale was arrested in April 2012 for filming a Cumming City Council meeting. Olens filed suit against the mayor and city in June 2012. Yesterday, Olens office announced it had won a major victory in enforcing the states Open Meetings Act against the City of Cumming and its mayor.
After Tisdales arrest, Linda Clary-Umberger, chair of the Dawson County GOP, left.
The meeting was advertised as open to the public, and there were no announcements or signs requesting recording devices to be put away, Umberger said. Though I have respect for private property rights, I also respect the First Amendment rights of an individual, which should be mutually respected.
I believe this was an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided if cooler heads had prevailed. ... This simply should not have happened.
Candidate David Perdues office issued a statement: Ms. Tisdale is a supporter and has been allowed to record several campaign events in the past, according to Megan Whittemore at Perdues campaign office. We are not aware of the details of her removal, but we hope it is an unfortunate misunderstanding that will be resolved.
Gov. Deal said Tisdales removal made him feeluncomfortable, but because he was a guest he said he had no involvement in the decision.
I think all of you know Im not reluctant to have people video me under any circumstance, Deal said Monday.