The murder trial of Lillo Brancato seems like life following fiction for the actor from the Sopranos and The Bronx Tale. Brancato, 32, is accused of killing an off-duty police officer, Daniel Enchautegui, who came upon him and his drug dealer friend, Steven Armento, breaking into an apartment. Armento shot Enchautegui, but the prosecutors are seeking to prove that Brancato knew his friend was armed and therefore shares in his guilt.
The trial will largely focus on a single disputed fact: did Brancato know that Armento had a gun. Brancato insists that he was a strung out drug addict who merely went along with his friend after a night of drinking at a strip club on Dec. 10, 2005. Enchautegui was shot in the chest but succeeded in shooting both Armento and Brancato.
The government will call a drug dealer who will claim that Armento pulled a gun on him in front of Brancato earlier that night. Brancato will argue that the drug dealer is just lying for a deal with the prosecutors.
It will be a hard case for Brancato given the time that he spent with Armento that night. The jury is likely to assume that the existence of the gun came up, particularly in the planning for the burglary in search of prescription drugs.
Ultimately, Brancato seems to have merged with both his famous movie roles. In Sopranos, his character Mathew Bevilaqua was ultimately murdered after an assault with a loser friend on Soprano’s nephew — an ill-conceived crime designed to advance their reputations. In the Bronx Tale, he played Calogero ‘C’ Anello who was befriended and protected by a mobster. His father Lorenzo (played by Robert DeNiro) gave the line that became the signature for the film: “Just remember what I’m telling you: The saddest thing is wasted talent. Don’t waste yours.”
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