'Sopranos' actor sentenced to 10 years
EmptyNEW YORK – A former actor on "The Sopranos" was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for a botched burglary in the Bronx in which an accomplice shot and killed an off-duty police officer.
A jury acquitted Lillo Brancato Jr. in the death of the police officer, but convicted him of attempted burglary. He had faced up to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Brancato and the accomplice were looking for drugs when they broke into an apartment next door to the officer's home in December 2005. When Officer Daniel Enchautegui went to investigate, he was gunned him down.
Steven Armento was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The acquittal in the murder case against Brancato outraged the slain officer's family and the union that represents police officers.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence in the attempted burglary conviction. Brancato has already served three years waiting for his trial, for which he will receive credit.
Brancato rose to fame in 1993's "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 HBO's "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, 32, and Armento, 48, were drinking together at a strip club before deciding to break into the basement apartment in a hunt for Valium, prosecutors said.
Brancato testified that the break-in never happened. 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.
He said the pills were part of a drug problem that began when he was introduced to marijuana on the set of "A Bronx Tale." He later became hooked on crack and heroin.
Brancato 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.
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.
His lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said Brancato wanted to turn his life around.