Actor Lillo Brancato, best known for getting wacked by Tony Soprano as half-wit Matthew Bevilaqua in the HBO series The Sopranos, is returning to acting after eight years in prison, and some New York Police officers aren’t happy about it.
Brancato appeared in several episodes of the series’ second season in the year 2000 as an associate of the Soprano family but was done in by Tony and another character. After a stint on the short-lived CBS mob drama Falcone, and an appearance in the film ‘R Xmas, the actor turned to drugs.
In December 2005, Brancato and another man, Steven Armento, allegedly attempted to break into a Bronx apartment to steal Valium, stirring off-duty New York City Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui, whose sleep was interrupted by the sound of breaking glass, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Enchautegui confronted the men, and a gun battle erupted, leaving the officer dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. Armento was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the crime, while Brancato was given a 10-year sentence.
After serving only eight years behind bars for his role in the burglary-gone-awry, Lillo was released from prison Dec. 31, 2013 and recently found his way back to acting with a role in the upcoming film Back in the Day, alongside Alec Baldwin, Danny Glover and Mike Tyson.
Brancato told The New York Post last year after his release from prison: “I really do love acting, and for any opportunity, for anyone to take a chance on me so quickly, it’s humbling and I’m just so grateful.”
An admitted former heroin and crack addict, Brancato told the paper he is now focused on his career and finding forgiveness. He said in 2014, “I’ve changed a lot… I am going to work my butt off to show people I can be trusted… I know how ugly addiction is, and intrinsically it would be valuable to me to help other people — and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
But officers of New York City’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association have not been so quick to forget the callous murder that left one of their own dead, and hey plan to boycott any and all projects Brancato is linked to.
Association president Patrick J. Lynch said earlier this month: “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… Junkie Brancato doesn’t deserve a break.”
Tuesday Lynch told TMZ: “We ask all right-thinking people not to support this thug’s acting career by avoiding this movie and any project in which he is involved.”
Brancato has said not a day goes by where he doesn’t regret the 2005 incident:
I have always respected policemen and have always been treated well by them… They are working class guys, and my family is working class. I take full responsibility for what I did… I wish I could go back and change the outcome of that night. It was wrong for me to be there. I will think about that day every single day of my life.
Lynch doesn’t buy it, though: “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.
The PBA President finished: “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.”