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Ex-jail deputy, recently convicted, hospitalized after fracas with sheriff's personnel, sister says

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A former Erie County jail deputy who was fired after being convicted of cocaine possession was accosted by a group of deputies at the Garth Brooks concert Saturday and hospitalized, the victim’s sister said.

Former Deputy John A. Gugino, 45, was entering a men’s room at Highmark Stadium when an on-duty deputy saw him and called him corrupt, said his sister Jill Gugino-Redman, whose account of the episode comes from her brother.

John Gugino in turn called the deputy corrupt and an argument began that drew other deputies, his sister said. She said her brother offered to leave the stadium, but was instead hauled to the floor and arrested.

He was placed in a stadium holding tank, denied an ambulance and released around midnight, when the concert ended, Jill Gugino-Redman said. She displayed an appearance ticket ordering John Gugino to appear in Orchard Park Town court on charges of harassment and criminal trespassing at a later date.

She said her brother, after his release, called her from the Big Tree Inn and told her he needed medical attention. She took him to Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, where doctors early Sunday were observing him for a concussion and possible brain bleed, she said. She provided a photo of him in a hospital bed and other closeups of a scraped knee and a puffy eye.

Gugino Hospital

A Sheriff’s Office spokesman did not return messages seeking comment about the matter.

Just last week, Gugino had been sentenced to community service on a cocaine possession charge, closing out a case that began almost two years earlier. The Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators secretly followed a tip that Gugino was selling drugs in the Holding Center, then pulled over his vehicle while he drove off duty in Hamburg on Oct. 17, 2020.

Cocaine was found, and Gugino was charged with a felony and suspended without pay. Later testing found the actual weight of the cocaine merited only a misdemeanor, and the possession charge was reduced.

Meanwhile, Gugino sued Erie County in federal court, claiming his suspension without pay was harsh when considering other deputies had committed worse infractions and remained on duty. He also contended the drug investigation was begun in retaliation for previous disputes with his employer about time off. His lawsuit is pending.

On May 10, Gugino pleaded guilty in Hamburg Town Court to seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor. Sheriff John C. Garcia fired him June 10, and Gugino soon went public with a request to get his job back because he said he deserved a second chance.

On Thursday, a Hamburg justice ordered Gugino to perform 50 hours of community service and pay a $205 fine, while also granting him a conditional discharge.

Jill Gugino-Redman said both matters involved a narcotics investigator for the Sheriff’s Office who, like many deputies, also provides security for stadium events.

The investigator was in the throng of deputies in proximity to then-Deputy Kenneth P. Achtyl’s arrest of Buffalo Bills fan Nicholas Belsito outside the stadium in December 2017 and  testified on Achtyl’s behalf in Orchard Park Town Court when he stood trial for assault and other charges. Achtyl was convicted and is no longer on the force.

 Gugino-Redman said the investigator was involved in the drug-possession case against her brother and, upon seeing him at the stadium during Saturday’s concert, called him corrupt.

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