Monday, December 22, 2008

'Sopranos' actor acquitted in cop killing

Lillo Brancato Jr., an actor who appeared in "The Sopranos," was acquitted of the 2005 killing an off-duty New York City police officer but found guilty of attempted burglary.

Brancato, 32, was also acquitted of two counts of burglary, but could face three to 15 years in prison on the attempted burglary charge. He has already served three years, according to his attorney, Joseph Tacopina.

Police officer Daniel Enchautegui, 28, was killed trying to break up a burglary attempt at his neighbor's house in the Bronx in December 2005.

During the trial, Brancato said there was not a break-in. Brancato said he knew the owner of the home, and that he and friend Steven Armento, 51, were drinking at a strip club when they decided to go hunt for valium.

Brancato told the jury that the owner, a Vietnam veteran, gave him permission to come to his house and take painkillers or other pills whenever he wanted.

Brancato admitted to breaking a window at the home, but said it was strictly because he was going through intense heroin withdrawal that night and he said he was trying to wake up his friend to get the drugs.

When Brancato and Armento entered the home, the next door neighbor -- Enchautegui -- came outside to investigate.

That's when prosecutors said Armento shot the officer through the heart with his .357 Magnum.

Armento was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in November. The jury in that trial took less than six hours to convict Armento.

Enchautegui was shot in the chest by Armento when he interrupted the alleged robbery, but managed to shoot both suspects multiple times before dying.

"This jury spoke loud and clear, that Lillo had nothing to do with the murder of this police officer," Tacopina said.

Brancato appeared on six episodes of the hit HBO series "The Sopranos" as a wannabe mobster in 2000. As a teen, Brancato starred alongside actor Robert De Niro in "A Bronx Tale."

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