THE BRONX - Closing arguments were made Tuesday in the trial of Lillo Brancato Jr., the former actor accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of an off-duty NYPD officer.
In their summations, the prosecution and defense left the jury with one question to answer: Is Brancato a cop-killing robber or was the ex-actor, who once appeared regularly on "The Sopranos," simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Brancato faces the murder charge in the 2005 killing of off-duty police Officer Daniel Enchautegui in Pelham Bay. Brancato's co-defendant, Steven Armento, was convicted of first-degree murder on Oct. 30 and later sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Brancato has said he was suffering from heroin withdrawal when he and Armento went to an apartment where the actor had obtained drugs before. Authorities say Armento and Brancato broke into the basement apartment to steal prescription drugs after a night of drinking at a strip club.
Enchautegui had returned home after finishing a late shift when he heard glass breaking at the residence next door. When he went to investigate, Armento fired at him, striking him in the chest.
Brancato's defense team tried to argue during the trial that its client was not armed and was unaware Armento was carrying a weapon. Prosecutors charged Brancato with second-degree murder because they say the officer was killed during a felony burglary.
"If Lillo didn't try to enter [the apartment], this is not a burglary," said Joseph Tacopina, Brancato's lawyer. "If it's not a burglary, Lillo is not guilty."
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