NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York City Patrlomen’s Benevolent Association was outraged Monday, following reports that onetime “Sopranos” actor Lillo Brancato Jr. was set to be released from prison after serving 10 years for a burglary that resulted in the death of an NYPD officer.
Brancato was expected to be released from prison this week, after serving only part of his 10-year sentence for the botched burglary in the Bronx, CBS 2 reported.
Prosecutors said in December 2005, Brancato and accomplice Steven Armento broke into a basement apartment to steal prescription drugs after a night of drinking at a strip club. Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who lived next door, came out to investigate.
Armento blasted the 28-year-old officer with his .357 Magnum, hitting him in the heart. The dying officer fired back, wounding both men.
Brancato was charged with second-degree murder, but was convicted only of burglary by a jury in 2008. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Armento was convicted earlier that year of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In a statement Monday, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch had harsh words for Brancato, and said he believed Brancato was really guilty in the officer’s death.
“It is our firm belief that Lillo Brancato is guilty of the murder of police officer Daniel Enchautequi even though he was only convicted of attempted burglary. Even while incarcerated, this lowlife thug showed his true colors when he beat up a fellow inmate who wouldn’t get off a pay phone quickly enough,” Lynch said in the statement.
The union said it would make every effort to make sure Brancato stays on the straight and narrow, and suffers consequences if he does not.
“As the system prepares to release him on parole, this union will take any steps necessary to ensure that this miscreant follows the conditions of his parole down to the last letter,” Lynch said in the statement. “The entire law enforcement community will be watching and the minute he steps out of line, we’ll be sure that he is returned to prison to finish out the rest of his sentence.”
Meanwhile, Brancato celebrated his release on Twitter on Sunday — although the tweets did not make clear exactly when he was expected to be released.
In two tweets, he wrote: “Tomorrow is my last full day in prison. I go home Wed. the 31st (sic). With that being said, this will be my last tweet from prison. Thank you for your love and support. I love you all!”
The former “Sopranos” and “A Bronx Tale” actor and a co-defendant are awaiting trial at Riker’s Island in the December 2005 shooting of Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who was fatally shot while off-duty in the Bronx during a break-in.
Brancato rose to fame in the 1993 movie “A Bronx Tale,” playing a young kid from the neighborhood who is torn between two worlds and two men: a local mobster played by Chazz Palminteri and his straight-and-narrow bus-driver father, played by Robert De Niro.
Other roles followed, most notably a stint on the second season of “The Sopranos.” His character carried out a series of low-level crimes for the New Jersey mob before being gunned down by Tony Soprano and his sidekick as he tearfully begged for his life.
Brancato, now 37, and Armento, now 56, were drinking together at a strip club in December 2005 before deciding to break into the basement apartment in a hunt for Valium, prosecutors said.
Brancato testified during the trial there was a never a break-in. He claimed that he had known the owner, a Vietnam veteran, for several years. He also said he had permission to go inside and take painkillers and other pills whenever he felt like it, and didn’t know the man had died earlier that year.
The pills were part of a drug problem that he said began when he was “introduced to marijuana” on the set of “A Bronx Tale.” He later became hooked on crack and heroin, he said.
He told the jury that while suffering from judgment-impairing heroin withdrawals on the night of the shooting, he accidentally broke the kitchen window of the apartment in a desperate attempt to wake up his old pill-supplier.
“I was becoming dope sick,” Brancato testified. “Mentally, I was a mess.”
Brancato tried to deflect suggestions by the prosecution that his testimony – at times punctuated by vignettes about his drug-crazed downfall – was another acting job.
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