New York 1 News

December 23, 2008

Jury Clears Brancato on Murder Charges

By Cindi Avila

A jury Monday cleared former actor Lillo Brancato for the murder of off-duty police officer Daniel Enchautegui.

The 28-year-old officer was shot and killed when he went to investigate a break in at his next door neighbor's home. Brancato was also cleared of the other most serious charges stemming from the crime on December 10, 2005. Instead, "The Bronx Tale" actor was found guilty only of attempted burglary.

"To say he attempted burglary is absolutely wrong. He absolutely burglarized that with the intent and because of that a hero off-duty New York City police officer who was off-duty, put himself at risk for this city and was killed" said PBA President Pat Lynch.

Brancato's one-time friend Steven Armento was convicted of the murder earlier this year and is serving a life sentence, but Enchautegui's family said they wanted a second murder conviction for Brancato.

"I was three long years for this? I'm disappointed. The only thing I'm not is that he's not walking out. What message is this sending to the New York City police officers today?" said Yolanda Rosa, Enchautegui's sister.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that he, too, was upset by the outcome.

"On this day of disappointments in court, we hope that the family and friends of Daniel Enchautegui find some comfort in the fact that at least one in the pair responsible for his death was convicted of murder," he said.

Brancato showed little emotion as the verdict was read, but his attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said he was relieved.

"I'm certainly relieved that Lillo Brancato in the eyes of the law should no longer be considered a cop killer, he never was," said Tacopina.

Tears were shed by people on both sides of the courtroom with Brancato's mother openly sobbing.

"This is not a happy go lucky moment for Lillo or his family. This is just a conclusion to the chapter of this really horrific story," said Tacopina.

The next chapter is sentencing on January 9. This conviction carries three to 15 years. Brancato's attorney said since he's already served three years, and has no prior felony convictions, he's hoping his client walks out a free man.