BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — An Erie County sheriff's deputy caught on-camera roughing up a Buffalo Bills fan is charged with four misdemeanors.
Deputy Kenneth Achtyl arrested Nicholas Belsito in a game-day arrest in December of 2017. That arrest was caught on camera by sheriff body-camera footage of the incident. The video clearly showed Belsito with a bloody face during the arrest.
Thursday night, the 46-year-old Achtyl of Hamburg appeared in Orchard Park Town Court for an arraignment. He was charged with two counts of assault in the third, one count of falsifying business records in the second and one count of official misconduct.
As the deputy arrived at court, a large entourage of what appeared to be about two dozen sheriff's and PBA supporters to show their solidarity. They first formed two lines outside the back entrance of the court house for Achtyl's arrival, then all entered the courtroom for the proceeding.
"No matter what their show of force may be, which in this case is an external show of force, I would just hope that in the back of their mind, they would realize we can't do that...we can't take our billy club out and smack a kid in the mouth," Flynn said.
Achtyl appeared with well-known defense attorney Rodney Personius in court. After the arraignment Personius told reporters the full video must be reviewed from the arrest.
Personius also said this case should go to trial.
“My Office is aware of the pending charges against Deputy Achtyl. He is on administrative leave, and when he is formally charged, his status will change to ‘suspended without pay’ until the conclusion of the court proceedings."
Belsito was arrested while tailgating on counts of criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration, but all chargers were later drop by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office in June of 2018 after review of the body camera footage.
"You have to review all of the footage. You have to go back to the beginning. You have to go back when the beer cans were being thrown at law enforcement. You have to go back to when this gentleman was interfering with another arrest. You have to go back in the video to when this gentleman was told to leave several times and didn't," stated Personius.
Hospital records indicated Belsito suffered a number of serious injuries during his arrest, including a nasal fracture and a concussion.
"We believed Achtyl should have been charged and today's decision comes as no surprise to us."
Attorney Personius was asked about his clients response to being suspended without pay. Peronsius said the deput was "unhappy" and "unsure" how he will make ends meet.
Belsito filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Timothy Howard, Deputy Achtyl and Deputy James Flowers, also involved in the arrest. Belsito’s lawsuit is seeking “an award of general, special and punitive damages,” however it did not provide an exact amount.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also issued a statement in response to the charges against the deputy.
“While there are many good deputies in the Erie County Sheriff’s office, unfortunately the bad actions of one deputy can harm the reputation of all. If a deputy lies to create an evidentiary premise for an arrest, that deputy is breaking the law and should not be wearing a badge representing the people of our county. As I said before, I understand that the job of a deputy can be stressful, and I have great respect for anyone who chooses a career in law enforcement, but no one is above the law. Deputy Achtyl’s behavior in this matter has been unacceptable, inappropriate, and not representative of the honorable men and women who wear the uniform. As I previously communicated to the sheriff’s office, he should be removed from his position."
Orchard Park Town Justice Jorge de Rosa conducted the arraignment. He released Achtyl on his own recognizance. The case returns to court June 27th at 5 p.m.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn will hold a media availability on the case Friday at 10 a.m. D.A. Flynn said if convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail.