New York Daily News

December 16, 2008 


Ex-'Sopranos' actor Lillo Brancato takes stand at murder trial of NYPD cop

By JOSE MARTINEZ and CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

December 16, 2008

"Sopranos" actor Lillo Brancato took the witness stand in his murder trial Monday and said he's a junkie -- not a cop killer.

Brancato said that on the night Officer Daniel Enchautegui was killed he was so high on heroin, crack and alcohol "even my hair was hurting...I was a mess."

Brancato also said he had no idea Enchautegui was a cop and that his first instinct after the fatal shooting was to run.

It was the first time the 32-year-old washed up actor spoke at his trial and Brancato delivered his testimony in a low, Brando-esque voice.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch panned Brancato's performance.

"He's an actor," Lynch said. "He's acting on the stand just like he did in the movies."

"That was not a role up there," defense lawyer Joe Tacopina fired back. "That was his life."

Brancato is charged with second-degree murder, even though his buddy, Steven Armento, fired the shot that killed Enchautegui in December 2005.

To make the charge stick, prosecutors must convince the jury Brancato was trying to burglarize the Bronx home of his drug supplier, Kenny Scovotti.

They have noted that Brancato was wearing latex gloves and broke the basement window of Scovotti's house - setting into motion the tragedy that ended with Enchautegui's death.

Brancato insisted he regularly visited Scovotti, who supplied him with prescription drugs. He said that when he was too stoned to make it home to Yonkers, he would let himself into Scovotti's pad through a garage door.

"I'd done it many times before," he said. "Permission was never revoked.

"I was knocking on every door and every window to get this guy's attention. I knew he was in there. He wasn't the type to be out dancing."

In the process a window was shattered, rousing Enchautegui who managed to wound Brancato and Armento before he was killed.

"I remember someone saying, 'Don't move!,'" Brancato said. "I was startled. I quickly turned around and I was shot -- twice."

Brancato said he found out at the hospital that Enchautegui was a cop - and that the reason Scovotti did not respond was because he had died four months earlier.

The accused actor began his testimony by describing how he got high the first time on pot while working on the set of the 1993 film "A Bronx Tale." That led to cocaine and heroin.

"If you don't do it, you're all aches and pains and if you do, you digging yourself a deeper hole," he said of heroin.

Starting in March 2005, Brancato said he "hard core daily user" of crack.

On the night Enchautegui was killed, Brancato said he was in his pajamas when Armento called and suggested they go get a drink.

Brancato said they went to a local strip joint and stayed until it closed. Then he and Armento drove to Scovotti's pad to score some drugs.

Armento, 52, is doing life without parole.