March 3, 2014

PBA Outraged by Hiring Of Brancato for Video

‘Junkie Doesn’t Deserve a Break’

By Mark Toor


PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘No second chance for his victim.’


The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association reacted with fury last week to the news that Lillo Brancato Jr., the sometime actor who degenerated into drug addiction and became involved in the 2005 murder of Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui, is getting a second chance: a part in a music video with a one-hit wonder who hopes to become a star.

“Danny Enchautegui isn’t getting a second chance, nor are his parents, who were driven to an early grave by the murder of their only son,” said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch. “Junkie Brancato doesn’t deserve a break.”

Served 8 Years

Mr. Brancato was released from prison at the beginning of the year after serving eight years for an attempted-burglary conviction in Officer Enchautegui’s murder. A juror said the panel declined to convict him of felony murder because there was no evidence that he knew his partner, Steven Armento, who fired the fatal shot, was armed.

Mr. Brancato and Mr. Armento had broken into a home in the Pelham Bay section of The Bronx on Dec. 10, 2005, planning to rob a fellow user’s stash. Officer Enchautegui, who lived a few doors away, heard breaking glass and went to investigate. When he saw a broken window, he called 911. As he waited for backup, Mr. Brancato and Mr. Armento left the house.

He shouted, “Police! Don’t move!” Mr. Armento shot him in the chest. The cop fired back six times, wounding both men. Officer Enchautegui died later that day at a hospital. He was 28, a year younger than Mr. Brancato at the time. Mr. Armento is serving a life sentence.

The hope was that Mr. Brancato, who was praised for his roles in “A Bronx Tale” and “The Sopranos” before his drug problems made him unemployable, would fade into obscurity. But the news website contactmusic.comreported last week that he would play a part in a video made by singer Natali Yura, who had a hit with “Scream for Love” last summer. The video will be based on her song “Fall for You.”

‘Paid Price for Mistake’

News of the job resulted in an outpouring of criticism. Ms. Yura has defended the hiring and deleted critics’ messages on her Facebook page.

“Lillo Brancato is an extraordinarily talented actor who made a very serious mistake,” she wrote. “He was found by the court to have been guilty of 1st-degree attempted burglary, not murder: Lillo was completely unarmed. He was in the wrong place, with the wrong company, sick with drug addiction, and for his crime he served almost a decade in prison.

“I deeply sympathize with the family, friends and all members of law enforcement grieving over the loss of Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who served honorably to protect the citizens of New York and has joined the list of fallen heroes...However, I truly believe in my heart that individuals deserve a second chance, and the fact is that Lillo is not a killer. I also believe in Lillo’s sincere wish to rebuild his life and career...None of us are innocent of sin, only differing in its degree. We were all born on earth to love and to forgive...”

‘Benefits From Cop’s Death’

Mr. Lynch isn’t buying it. “If this junkie Brancato wasn’t looking to score drugs, he and his mutt partner would not have been attempting to break in to what they thought was a dealer’s house,” he said. “Even though he wasn’t convicted of the crime, he is still just as responsible for the death of Daniel Enchautegui as the shooter was. This junkie is now more famous for being a criminal than he was for being an actor, which leads us to believe that, with this job, he is benefiting from the death of a great police officer, and that is totally unacceptable.”

Chazz Palminteri, who worked with Mr. Brancato in “A Bronx Tale,” has similar sentiments.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s made monumentally bad choices and has to live with the consequences,” Mr. Palminteri told the Daily News shortly after Mr. Brancato’s release. “I don’t want it in any way understood that I’m working with him or in contact with him. ... I really have nothing to say [to him].”

In addition to her own Facebook page, Ms. Yura is featured on another, “Boycott Natalie Yura,” created after Mr. Brancato’s hiring. More than 5,000 users indicated they “liked” it two days after it opened.

“Here’s my question...” wrote one commenter. “Who is natali yura?”

“She is gonna milk the free publicity as much as she can,” replied another.