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Tisdale trial continues as jury is selected
Citizen journalist was offered plea deal but declined
Tisdale trial 1
Nydia Tisdale consults with her defense team on Nov. 27. From left, attorney Bruce Harvey, Tisdale, attorney Catherine Bernard and investigator Robin Martinelli. - photo by Allie Dean

The hurdle of selecting a jury to sit on the criminal case against citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale has been the only progress made in the trial over the past two days, as prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned prospective jurors in a courtroom at the Dawson County Government Center on Monday and Tuesday.

A jury of nine men and five women was finally seated late Nov. 28.

The trial resumes Wednesday with opening statements from the defense and prosecution. The trial is expected to last through Friday.

Tisdale was indicted on one misdemeanor charge of trespassing, one misdemeanor charge of obstruction of an officer and a felony charge of obstruction of an officer after she was arrested in August of 2014 after refusing to stop videoing speeches at a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville.

She was removed from the Republican Party rally by then-Dawson County Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Wooten and held in the Burt’s barn until two other officers arrived to take her to jail.

Tisdale pleaded not guilty to all charges in March 2016.

At the beginning of the trial on Nov. 27, Senior Judge Martha Christian asked about a plea deal that was offered to Tisdale.

Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer, who is prosecuting the case, said Tisdale was offered a plea deal that would have dropped the obstruction of an officer charges. Greer said Tisdale could plead nolo contendre to the misdemeanor charge of trespass.

Tisdale rejected the plea. If convicted of the felony charge, Tisdale could serve up to five years in prison.

Jury selection moved slow Tuesday morning as both sides made it clear during their questioning of potential jurors that private property, obedience of law enforcement and a journalist’s right to record public events would be key issues in the trial ahead.

The prosecution asked the potential jurors if they had ever visited Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, if they owned any property, and if they had ever had anyone removed from their property before.

Bernard from Tisdale’s defense team, which also includes investigator Robin Martinelli, asked the jurors if they knew any of the potential witnesses and if they felt their associations would sway their ability to be impartial. She also asked if they knew anyone in law enforcement.

Tisdale, who gives herself the title of citizen journalist, films local government meetings and political events and posts the videos to her YouTube account.

"I have been videoing for five years," she said at a pretrial hearing in October of last year. "I provide information for the public to learn more about their local government."

Tisdale maintains that she had permission from the property owners to film at the rally and that she was unlawfully arrested and assaulted  by Wooten, who she says did not identify himself until reinforcements showed up at the farm.

Wooten said at the pretrial hearing that when he arrested Tisdale, he was acting for the safety of Tisdale and the other people at the rally, as he had been trained to do.