View Full Version : 'Sopranosí actor seeks separate trial in cop slay

May 5th, 2006, 06:58 AM
'Sopranos’ actor seeks separate trial in cop slay (,0,
Lillo Brancato, Jr. (,0, (AP Photo)

Newsday Staff Writer

May 5, 2006

Lillo Brancato Jr. put a new spin Thursday on his legal strategy in the fatal shooting of an off-duty city police officer: The "Sopranos" actor actually wants his co-defendant, Steven Armento, to testify in his defense.

"Lillo Brancato has an absolute defense as a matter of law to the murder charge" stemming from Officer Daniel Enchautegui's Dec. 10 death, Brancato's attorney, Mel Sachs, declared after a hearing in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. "He did not know that Armento had a gun."

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Prosecutors contend that Armento fired the shot that killed Enchautegui, 28, when the officer tried to stop Armento, 48, and Brancato, 29, from burglarizing an apartment in the Pelham section of the Bronx. Armento is charged with first-degree murder and Brancato with second-degree murder.

Thursday, Sachs said Armento would confirm that Brancato did not know Armento had a gun when the shooting occurred. Sachs also intends to file papers seeking a separate trial for his client.

When Sachs told Justice Steven Barrett that he would seek to have Armento testify on Brancato's behalf, Armento quietly shook his head, "No."

The courtroom was crowded with Enchautegui's relatives and nearly 100 police officers, as well as family members of the two defendants. Enchautegui was assigned to the 40th Precinct and had been on the force for three years.

Brancato and Armento told police they decided at a strip club to break into an apartment in search of Valium, prosecutors said. Enchautegui, who lived in a basement apartment next door, confronted them and was killed during a shootout.

Sachs also argued in court that some of Brancato's statements to police should be be kept out of any trial. Enchautegui had shot and wounded Brancato, the lawyer said, and his client was not in any condition, while hospitalized, to make statements to police.

Outside the courthouse, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, decried the requests made by Sachs.

"It's outrageous that these two junkies want the evidence collected and their statements suppressed because they made bad choices," Lynch said. "They both knew there was a weapon being carried."

Brancato made his film debut starring opposite Robert De Niro in "A Bronx Tale" in 1993 and appeared later in several movies. He had a recurring role in "The Sopranos" as an aspiring mobster.

The judge adjourned the case until July 11.