Prosecutors drop Brancato statements

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NEW YORK -- Key statements that Lillo Brancato Jr. made to police will not be used against him in his upcoming trial in the fatal shooting of an off-duty police officer.

Prosecutors agreed not to introduce the statements because Brancato, known for playing an aspiring mobster in HBO's "The Sopranos," was questioned without his lawyer, Assistant District Attorney Theresa Gottlieb said Tuesday.

The statements were made shortly after the December 2005 shooting of Officer Daniel Enchautegui. Brancato is alleged to have told investigators co-defendant Steven Armento shot the officer, though Brancato urged him not to.

"You think I'm in a lot of trouble?" the actor allegedly asked after telling officers he didn't have a gun.

His lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said Brancato was sedated and "could barely speak" when he was questioned.

Prosecutors say an off-duty Enchautegui confronted Brancato and Armento while they were breaking into a Bronx apartment in search of prescription drugs. Armento is accused of firing the fatal shot.

Brancato told a TV interviewer in a February jail interview that he "was in no way responsible for the death of that police officer," and his attorney said Tuesday he was "optimistic" about the case.

"My client didn't have a gun, and that's the crux of the case," Tacopina said.

Brancato made his debut starring opposite Robert De Niro in "A Bronx Tale" in 1993.

His life began to disintegrate in 2005, with a pair of drug-related arrests and a disorderly conduct arrest just two days before the shooting.
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