Buffalo, NY – A veteran Erie County sheriff’s deputy has been criminally charged in connection with the arrest of a Buffalo Bills fan during a tailgating party in 2017.
Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Achtyl, 46, was previously cleared of wrongdoing following an internal review of the December 2017 arrest of Nicholas Belsito, his attorney, Rodney Personius, told The Buffalo News in January.
"The sheriff's department has fully investigated this and determined no type of internal investigation or disciplinary proceeding is warranted," Personius said.
Belsito was initially arrested on charges of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief, but those charges were ultimately dropped, The Buffalo News reported.
Peronius argued that cell phone and bodycam footage of the altercation “unquestionably [showed] active resistance by the suspect.”
“He clearly, clearly was resisting and not being cooperative,” the attorney added.
In the video, the suspect could be seen grabbing the deputy's arm, an aggressive form of active resistance.
But Erie County District Attorney John Flynn disagreed, dropped the charges against Belsito, and turned his attention towards charging the veteran deputy.
“I’m all over this case,” Flynn told The Buffalo News in January.
Deputy Achtyl, a 19-year veteran-of-the-force, is scheduled to be arraigned on misdemeanor counts of official misconduct, falsifying business records and two counts of assault on Thursday, The Buffalo News reported.
“When he is formally charged, his status will change to ‘suspended without pay’ until the conclusion of the court proceedings," Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard said.
The altercation took place outside New Era Field during a tailgating party on December 3, 2017.
Deputy Achtyl and his fellow deputies had arrested one of Belsito’s friends after the unnamed suspect hurled beer cans into a crowd, striking Deputy Achtyl in the elbow.
It was unclear whether or not the deputies had interacted with Belsito prior to his friend’s arrest.
After they secured the suspect in the back of the patrol car, Belsito approached the driver’s side of the vehicle to inquire where he should go to pick up his friend once he was released from jail, bodycam footage showed.
One of the deputies repeatedly told Belsito to “beat it,” then told him his friend would be taken to “10 Delaware,” which is the address of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
"This is [expletive], do your [expletive] job," Belsito retorted as he walked away from the patrol vehicle.
That’s when Deputy Achtyl got out of the SUV and confronted him.
Bodycam footage from fellow Erie County Deputy James Flowers failed to capture the beginning of the altercation, but a brief cell phone clip showed Belsito as he grabbed onto Deputy Achtyl’s arm.
The deputy also allegedly struck Belsito with his baton during the struggle, The Buffalo News reported.
“Put your hands behind your back. Stop fighting,” Deputy Flowers ordered, as his partner struggled with Belsito.
The suspect briefly started arguing about his phone and could be seen resisting, at which point Deputy Flowers issued the command again, then told Deputy Achtyl to take Belsito to the ground, the video showed.
“He’s bleeding!” a man in the crowd yelled out. “What are you doing?”
The deputies subsequently placed Belsito in handcuffs, then placed him into the patrol vehicle next to his friend.
In the arrest report, both deputies wrote that Belsito swung his arms as he was resisting arrest, but prosecutors disputed that claim.
Belsito also filed a lawsuit against Deputy Achtyl and Deputy Flowers earlier this year, WIVB reported.
He said that Deputy Achtyl slammed him into the side of the patrol vehicle and struck him in the head with a baton, causing him to suffer a facial fracture and other injuries.
Belsito's lawsuit accused Deputy Flowers of falsely arresting him, and also alleged that Deputy Flowers failed to protect him during the altercation.
“We believe the facts clearly support the DA’s decision to prosecute,” Belsito’s attorney, Aaron Glazer, told WIBV. “The law in NY is clear in that Nick should not have been arrested, let alone subjected to a vicious assault. The civil suit is pending and will move forward.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz accused Deputy Achtyl of lying about what took place that day, and said he should be fired.
“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,” Poloncarz declared. “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.”
“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,” he continued. “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.”
You can watch footage of the deputies' encounter with Belsito in the video below: