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Former Erie County deputy given conditional discharge in assault case

The punishment was handed down Thursday night in Town of Orchard Park Court.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Kenneth Achtyl, the former Erie County Sheriff's Deputy who was found guilty of assaulting a Bills fan during a 2017 tailgate, received a one-year conditional discharge Thursday night.

Achtyl, 46, of Hamburg will not go to jail, nor go on probation, though there are conditions, which include a $250 fine for each count he faced. He must also serve 150 hours of community service.

The sentence was handed down Thursday night in the Town of Orchard Park Court by Justice Jorge S. de Rosas.

In September, Achtyl was found guilty by a jury of (reckless) assault in the third degree, official misconduct and falsifying records. He later submitted his letter of resignation to the Erie County Sheriff's Office.

Achtyl was accused of assaulting then-25-year-old Nicholas Belsito during a tailgate at New Era Field in on December 3, 2017. He had struck Belsito in the face with his police baton, and Belsito suffered a broken nose and a concussion during the incident.  

Belsito told the judge at sentencing that the experience was painful and humiliating.

Achtyl's former boss, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, urged town justice de Rosas to be lenient in his sentence. Howard called Achtyl "a hero" in a December recommendation that was written on an official Erie County Sheriff's Office letterhead.

"I ask for your judicious consideration of a man, a hero, no less, whose career was spent endeavoring to do what is right and honorable for the safety of those citizens whom he aspired to dutifully serve," Howard wrote in the letter, which was dated December 4, 2019.

At sentencing, Howard stood by his remarks.

"We're not talking about his behavior on the day that this trial was all about. We're talking about his overall performance of his career," Howard said. "The lives that he saved, the lives that he's changed, the number of times he put himself at risk for other officers, as well as members of the public."

Howard's letter was contained in an 87-page sentencing memorandum that referenced letters from family, friends and fellow officers. It also included a number of awards and praises that ranged from 1998 to 2018.

"We've got old letters. We've got very recent letters. We have letters for what he did even after this incident, and it really shows a lifetime of valor, of acting on behalf of the community, of putting others before himself," said local defense attorney Barry Covert, who is not connected to the case.

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