New York Post
March 14, 2006

'COP-KILLER' IS ANGLING FOR A DEAL

By DENISE BUFFA

"Sopranos" actor Lillo Brancato Jr. wants to strike a deal with prosecutors, his lawyer said yesterday, leaving open the possibility that he may flip on his cop-killing cohort.

"He's not a murderer, and the conduct that he engaged in is a far cry from murder," Brancato's lawyer, Mel Sachs, said yesterday after a brief pre-trial hearing in Bronx Supreme Court.

Sachs said his client did not have a gun and did not know Steven Armento was armed that fateful December morning Armento allegedly shot off-duty Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui while the cop was investigating a burglary near his home.

But Sachs said chances are currently slim his client will rat out his co-defendant - the father of his estranged ex-girlfriend, Stefanie.

"That's not something that's being considered at this time," he said.

Armento, meanwhile, was offered a deal - plead guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for life behind bars - which he will not accept, his lawyer, former Bronx prosecutor William Flack, said yesterday.

"He can go to trial, he can lose and get life without parole," Flack said.

If he does go to trial, Armento will launch a self-defense claim, saying he did not know Enchautegui was a cop, Flack said. He noted that a cop shot an off-duty officer - not recognizing him as one of his own - just a couple of weeks after the Enchautegui slaying.

"If you don't know he's a cop and the guy's holding a gun and shooting at you, you're defending yourself," Flack said.

Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, called the self-defense claim "absolute nonsense."

Meanwhile, the judge granted Flack - who's acting as a public defender in the case - permission to hire a medical examiner to look at the autopsy report and check out the time of the police officer's death.

If the cop died instantly from a single bullet, that would help the self-defense claim because it indicates the officer opened fire first - getting off nine to 10 bullets at Brancato and Armento - before he was hit, Flack noted.

denise.buffa@nypost.com