Day 5: Verdict in Deputy Achtyl trial could come Friday

ANALYSIS: Paul Cambria on why Erie County Sheriff Deputy Achtyl did not testify

Mike Baggerman
September 27, 2019 - 3:00 am

Body camera footage of Nicholas Belsito's arrest by Erie County Sheriff's Deputies Kenneth Achtyl and James Flowers. December 3, 2017

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WBEN) – Deputy Kenneth Achtyl’s trial is nearly complete after the defense rested its case on Thursday afternoon.

Achtyl stands accused of four misdemeanors after his encounter with Bills fan Nicholas Belsito in the bus lot outside of New Era Field in December 2017. Achtyl was charged with two counts of assault, official misconduct, and falsifying business records.

WATCH: Body Camera footage of Nicholas Belsito's arrest at a Bills tailgate in December 2017

Nine total witnesses were called including three sheriff’s deputies, three tailgaters at the scene including Belsito, two experts, and a medical professional.

Achtyl did not testify in his own brutality trial.

His attorney, Rodney Personius, declined to comment on why he didn’t call Achtyl to the witness stand.

“I learned a long time ago that no one knows the case better than the lawyer in the courtroom trying the case,” WBEN legal analyst Paul Cambria said. “Rodney is a very excellent lawyer. If his judgement was that the prosecution has not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt then the right thing to do is to rest and not to dislodge what he believes has already been established.”

Jurors will be told on Friday not to consider that Achtyl didn’t talk

DAY 4 RECAP: Defense rests in case against Deputy Achtyl.

DAY 3 RECAP: Prosecutors rest their case in Achtyl Trial

DAY 2 RECAP: Nicholas Belsito cross examined in Achtyl Trial

Only a few of the nine witnesses were able to describe the incident at the car window where Belsito approached Achtyl and asked where Dylan Lowry, who was under arrest, was being taken. Belsito testified about the encounter as did witness Kara Massotti, who told Belsito not to approach the vehicle. Deputy James Flowers said in court earlier this week that he tried to stop Achtyl from getting out of the vehicle to arrest Belsito after he swore at the police officers.

Prosecutors tried on Wednesday to get defensive tactics instructor Robert Hughus to discuss why Achtyl didn’t use a de-escalation tactic when at the window. However, an objection by the defense over what Hughus was allowed to talk about was sustained by Judge Jorge DeRosas, meaning the expert could only testify on the physical encounter between Belsito and Achtyl on the passenger’s side of the police cruiser, not the encounter at the car window.

It’s unknown how long the jury will deliberate for.

“I tried a homicide case that lasted almost two months with almost 100 prosecution witnesses,” Cambria said. “The jurors went out to deloiberation and came back to ask for testimony and so on. About four days later they came back and acquitted the defendant. About a month later, I ran into a (juror who said) basically we decided the case in an hour but we thought we wouldn’t look like we were doing our job. So we just randomly asked for testimony to be read back.”

Closing arguments begin Friday morning followed by the jury deliberations.

“The moral of the story is you never know what’s happening in the jury room,” Cambria said.

If convicted, Achtyl could face a year in prison. Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard declined to comment until the end of the case.

 

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