'Sopranos' Alum Lillo Brancato Released From Prison After 8 Years
Former Sopranos actor Lillo Brancato is set to celebrate his first New Year's Eve as a free man since 2005.
The 37-year-old was released from prison on Tuesday after eight years behind bars for his role in a botched Bronx burglary that also led to the murder of an off-duty cop.
Brancato was sentenced to 10 years in prison in January 2009, but he had already served three years in jail while awaiting trial and was eligible for a conditional release next July.
He earned an earlier release by taking college courses and meeting disciplinary standards, officials told the Associated Press. Brancato will be on parole until the end of 2018.
In The Sopranos, Brancato played a bumbling, wannabe mobster who gets killed by James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano. He also starred opposite Robert De Niro in 1993's A Bronx Tale.
In 2005, Brancato and low-level mobster Steven Armento were drinking at the Crazy Horse Cabaret strip club in the Bronx when they decided to break in to a nearby apartment and steal Valium, prosecutors said during their trial, according to the AP.
The sound of shattering glass awoke off-duty officer Daniel Enchautegui, who lived in the neighborhood. He confronted Brancato and Armento in an alley and a gun battle erupted. Although Armento, who was carrying a handgun, fired first, prosecutors said, the officer suffered a fatal wound to the chest. Armento and Brancato were injured in the fight.
Armento was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Brancato, who was convicted of attempted burglary, was acquitted of a second-degree murder charge. The actor testified that the break-in never happened, saying he knew the owner and had permission to go inside the house to get painkillers and other pills, according to the AP.
Police union officials objected to Brancato's release, arguing he should have been convicted of murder.
"This union will take any steps necessary to ensure that this miscreant follows the conditions of his parole down to the last letter," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, in a 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."