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Verdict reached in case against Erie County Sheriff's Office Deputy

Posted at 4:36 PM, Sep 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 23:25:46-04

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Achtyl, accused of assaulting a Bills fan tailgating in 2017 has been found guilty of misconduct, reckless assault and falsifying records, but not guilty on intentional assault.

He will be sentenced on January 23rd, 2020. He faces a maximum of two years in prison.

For almost the entirety of the trial, Achtyl's boss, Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, sat in court alongside fellow deputies in a show of support.

"There are a lot of abnormalities to this case. All of the police officers that were sitting in here were equally shocked by it and I guess we'll have to wait and see what the future brings," Sheriff Howard said moments after the verdict was read.

Sheriff Howard calling out the District Attorney's Office on the handling of this case. Specifically over Belsito's dropped charges and the release of body camera footage.

"Why charges were dismissed without even talking to the deputies if they found fault with the case? Why it was never addressed?" Sheriff Howard questioned.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn responding, "Because the decision is not up to him. The decision is up to me."

Flynn adding he was well within his rights to give footage to attorneys in regards to the body camera. He said it wasn't easy for him to prosecute another law enforcer -- what he called "a teammate" -- but said justice was served.

"In order to maintain good order and discipline, I need to prosecute anyone who commits a crime -- anyone," he said.

Deputy Kenneth Achtyl arrested Nicholas Belsito at a Buffalo Bills tailgate 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.

Belsito was arrested while tailgating on counts of criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration, but all charges were later dropped by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office in June of 2018 after review of the body camera footage.

Hospital records indicated Belsito suffered a number of serious injuries during his arrest, including a nasal fracture and a concussion.

Monday, Belsito was one of two witnesses to testify. His testimony taking up a majority of the day, and much of it centered around photos taken by a bystander and sheriffs deputies body camera footage of both his friends arrest, and subsequently his arrest.

Belsito testified the Dec 3, 2017 bills game was the first time he ever tailgated. He says he had two beers over the course of several hours before his arrest and was not drunk.

After his friend was arrested, Belsito said he approached the marked patrol car to find out where he was being taken. That's when Belsito said Achtyl responded quote "To jail. Do you want to go with him?" He said Achtyl finally said "10 Delaware," (which is the holding center) and told him to beat it.

As he walked away Belsito said “ what do you mean beat it? you’re an *expletive* cop.” Belsito testified that was the catalyst for Achtyl getting out of the car and pulling him back toward the police car, using his baton around his neck, and striking him in the face before pulling him to the ground.

Tuesday, Belsito was on the stand for nearly five hours in day two of the trial with his actions in a police body camera video scrutinized by the defense.

The defense tried to establish that Belsito interfered in that arrest, he shouldn’t have been that close to police to begin with, and was told to back away in those moments leading up to his own arrest by Achtyl.

The defense was also critical of Belsito’s decision to approach the police car after his friend is loaded in the back.

Wednesday Erie County Sheriff's Deputy James Flowers, Achtyl's partner, recalled December 3, 2017 as the worst tailgate he had ever been to.

“The best way to describe it is chaos,” Flowers testified about that particular tailgate at New Era Field.

Flowers also testified that Nicholas Belsito interfered with official police business during an already chaotic situation.

Flowers also testified Belsito was arrested based on the totality of events that day. Yet, none of the arrest reports mention his interference in his friends arrest. Flowers testified they didn’t have much time to fill it out and he believed it to be truthful.

Thursday, the defense rested its case on day four in the trial.

7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley asked the defense attorney for comment outside the courtroom Thursday.

“Can you say at all say why you didn’t call Mr. Achtyl to the stand,” asked Buckley.

“No, I don’t want to comment on that,” replied Personius.

Achtyl’s attorney would not provide any comment on this case. Among the witnesses he called to testify Thursday, an undercover officer. He told the six-person jury it was the quote “craziest” Bills game he experienced. He said “I saw a girl punch a horse. I saw a guy jump off a bus.”

Much of Thursday's testimony centered around the force Achtyl used against Belsito. Christopher Puckett was an expert witness who investigates the impact on vehicles.

Puckett was asked about the force and dent in the police cruiser. He uses a formula to calculate the speed of a human. In this case how Belsito was pushed backwards into the fender off deputy vehicle.

Puckett testified it was dented at the speed of quote a “fast walk or slow jog."

Friday, closing statements were given and the jury began deliberating around 1 p.m.