Sheriff's deputy pleads not guilty in New Era Field confrontation; DA says he has to punish him
Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Achtyl has pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanors in connection with the December 2017 arrest of a fan at a Buffalo Bills Game. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says he has to punish him.
Achtyl faces two counts of assault, one count of falsifying business records, and one count of official misconduct. The charges stem from an altercation with University at Buffalo student Nicholas Belsito in the parking lot of New Era Field during a Bills tailgate.
According to the Erie County District Attorney, Belsito approached the patrol car in which Achtyl was sitting and asked for information on where his friend, who had been arrested for throwing a beer can at law enforcement, was being taken.
Achtyl and his partner tried to shoo Belsito, who persisted in his questioning, and eventually walked away, cursing at Achtyl and telling him to do his job. Achtyl got out of the vehicle and pursued Belsito. He then allegedly hit him in the face with his police baton, breaking Belsito’s nose and causing a concussion. Belsito was arrested, and much of the incident was caught on video by Achtyl’s partner’s body cam and civilian cell phone footage.
Flynn said the video speaks for itself.
The incident in question begins at 7:11 on the video below. Warning: Video contains coarse language and blood.
“The situation was diffused, it was over. The kid was walking away,” Flynn said on Friday morning during a press conference with the media. “It was done, and the deputy decided to get out of the car and re-engage in the situation that led to this unfortunate assault.”
As a member of law enforcement and a life-long season ticket holder with the Bills, Flynn said he understands the high demands for protecting fans at games.
“The bar I set to keep safety is pretty darn high,” said Flynn, who brings one of his children to every Bills game with him. “In this case right here, this officer crossed that bar. He crossed the line. He went over the bar. And I’ve got to do the right thing here and punish him for it.”
Earlier this year, Belsito filed a civil lawsuit against Achtyl, accusing him of using unnecessary force. Now, he faces up to a year in prison if convicted of all four misdemeanor charges.
On Thursday afternoon when Achtyl appeared in Orchard Park Town Court for arraignment, fellow law enforcement officers lined the entry to the building in a sign of silent solidarity.
Flynn said he doesn’t think the show of support symbolizes a division between the public and officers, especially at football games.
“I hope the fan base doesn’t think the security and the deputies there are against them because they’re not. The fan base should recognize that the deputies who are there, the law enforcement officials who are there are not there to be against them – just the opposite. They are there to keep them safe.”