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Monday, January 6, 2014

Does Lillo Brancato Have A Police Officer's Blood on His Hands?

     In 1993 a 17-year-old actor from the Borough of Yonkers in New York City named Lillo Brancato Jr. starred with Robert DeNiro in the movie "A Bronx Tale." Brancato, in 2000, appeared as a minor character in the HBO series "The Sopranos."

     On December 10, 2005, Brancato and an accomplice, Steven Armento, broke a window at an unoccupied home in Pelham Bay, Queens. The 29-year-old actor and Armento were looking for drugs.

     Daniel Enchautegui lived next door to the house Brancato and Armento were breaking into. The 28-year-old New York City patrolman with three years on the force had just arrived home following his 8  PM to 4 AM shift. When the officer heard the sound of breaking glass he called 911 and went outside to investigate. It was 5:15 in the morning.

     Steven Armento, when confronted by Enchautegui, shot the officer in the chest. Enchautegui returned fire, wounding both of the intruders. Physicians at the Jacobi Medical Center pronounced the police officer dead.

     Brancato and Armento went to trial in 2008. A jury found Armento guilty of first-degree murder. A judge, in 2009, sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole.

     At Brancato's trial, the defendant admitted being in Queens that morning with Steven Armento. The two men broke into the unoccupied house to score drugs. Brancato testified that he was going through heroin withdrawal than day.

     Pursuant to the felony-murder doctrine, if a person is killed during the commission of a felony all of the participants of the crime can be held culpable for the death. Under the law, the fact Brancato wasn't the one who pulled the trigger does not exempt him from legal responsibility for the officer's killing.

     The jury acquitted Brancato of burglary and felony-murder. They did find him guilty of attempted burglary. The judge sentenced Brancato to ten years in prison. (The judge gave him credit for the three years he spent in jail prior to his trial.)

     Lillo Brancato, on December 31, 2013, after agreeing to a five-year period of parole that included a 10 PM curfew, walked out of the Hudson Correctional Facility six months early. Had he served his full term, the 37-year-old would have been freed without parole conditions.

     Brancato's early release angered members of the New York City Police Department as well as relatives of the slain police officer. In speaking to reporters a spokesperson for the New York Patrolman's Benevolent Association said: "It is our firm belief that Lillo Brancato is guilty of the murder of police officer Daniel Enchautegui even though he was only convicted of attempted burglary."

     Enchautegui's sister, Yolanda Rosa, said, "I'm still upset that Brancato was not convicted of murder and that he did not serve enough time." 

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