ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A jury has reached a verdict in the trial of Erie County Sheriff's deputy charged in an incident at a Buffalo Bills game back in 2017.
Kenneth Achtyl has been found guilty of assault (reckless) in 3rd degree, official misconduct and falsifying records.
Achtyl was accused of assaulting a Bills fan during a 2017 tailgate.
During deliberations, jurors sent a note to the judge Friday afternoon with several questions:
- On the misconduct charge, what is the criteria?
- What needs to be proven?
- What's the definition of intent charge vs. reckless charge?
Jurors also wanted to review the use of force report.
After 1 hour, 15 minutes, Achtyl's attorney told the jury in closing arguments, “The decisions by Achtyl can’t be made in a vacuum,” and that they must consider the climate. He said Achtyl performed his duty honorably and that contact with Nicholas Belsito was incidental.
The defense says the incident happened “in the heat of battle. He didn’t know what to expect from this gentleman (Belsito).”
He said it wasn't an assault, "it was an effort to get (Belsito) under control.”
Achtyl will be sentenced January 23, 2020. He will be released on his own recognizance until then.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says he can't remember the last time a jury convicted a law enforcement officer.
"I'll concede that the kid didn't act perfectly, but at the end of the day, he didn't deserve to get a broken nose and a concussion. He didn't deserve to get the treatment that he got from the deputy," Flynn said.
Sheriff Timothy Howard spoke to the press following the verdict.
"Just by a simply, gracious act of stepping out of the way of a police officer that's in the performance of his duties, all of this could have been avoided. Whether he feels that he was unfairly treated or not, that this could have been avoided from the beginning," Howard said. "The police officers that watched this case don't know where it went wrong."
Added Flynn: "I'm a big believer in body cams because cameras don't lie."
Howard says Achtyl will remain suspended without pay until further notice.