Murder Trial Opens for Sopranos Actor

Lillo Brancato is charged with killing an NYPD officer in 2005

The murder trial of an actor who got his start in "A Bronx Tale" and later appeared in the "Sopranos" got underway in the Bronx on Monday, with both sides agreeing he had a severe drug problem.

Assistant District Attorney Theresa Gottlieb said Lillo Brancato and another man got involved in the killing of an off-duty police officer during a desperate mission to steal prescription drugs.

"In their effort to get drugs to satisfy their own desires, they took the life of a New York City police officer," she said.

Brancato's attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said the only culprit was Steven Armento, who was convicted of first-degree murder on Oct. 30 and has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Brancato is being tried on a second-degree murder charge in the 2005 death of Officer Daniel Enchautegui.

Authorities say he and Armento broke into a Bronx apartment to steal drugs after a night of drinking at strip club in nearby Yonkers.

Enchautegui, who lived next door, came out to investigate. Armento shot the 28-year-old officer in the heart. Enchautegui fired back, wounding both men.

"Lillo was there to satisfy his addiction. But he wasn't there to do violence -- and that's important," Tacopina said in his opening statement.

Tacopina described the actor as a serious drug addict and denied that his client ever entered the apartment.

Brancato also did not know that Armento had a gun, and he did not realize the person who shot him was a policeman, his lawyer said.

Brancato made his debut in 1993 in "A Bronx Tale" opposite Robert De Niro. He's appeared in more than a dozen other movies and played a doomed aspiring mobster in HBO's "Sopranos."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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