Pill-popping Brancato is as guilty as Armento in murder of cop, say prosecutors.
DAILY NEWS STAFF, Updated Monday, November 24th 2008, 5:12 PM;
Former "Sopranos" actor Lillo Brancato knew his pal was packing heat because he threatened a drug dealer with a .357 Magnum before gunning down a cop, prosecutors charged Monday.
The revelation came as prosecutors opened the 32-year-old actor's murder trial by describing how Lillo Brancato and Steven Armento were trying to steal prescription drugs when they tragically crossed paths with off-duty NYPD Officer Daniel Enchautegui.
"In their effort to get drugs to satisfy their own desires, they took the life of a NYPD officer," ADA Terry Gottlieb said. "They planned in the car to commit a burglary."
Getting that point across to the jury is key to the prosecution. Under the state's felony murder law, they must prove Brancato committed the burglary in order to find him guilty of murder - even though Armento fired the shot that killed Enchautegui early on Dec. 10, 2005.Gottlieb said the suspects were drinking at a strip joint when one of them said, "Let's go get some drugs."
So they drove in Brancato's SUV to the Bronx home of his friend, 62-year-old Kenneth Scovotti. Unaware that Scovotti had died five months earlier, a drunken Brancato kicked in a window. Spooked by the sound of shattered glass, they split and headed to the Bronx home of drug dealer Joe Borrelli, Gottlieb said.
"What, are you crazy?" Borrelli said when the two men woke him demanding drugs, Gottlieb said. "Steven Armento pulled out a .357 revolver and threatened Joe Borrelli. Armento said, 'Do you think we're kidding?'" Borrelli, a tough guy with a lengthy rap sheet, pulled out an axe handle "and chases them away," Gottlieb said.
Brancato and Armento returned to Scovotti's home on Arnow Place and encountered Enchautegui, who heard the sound of breaking glass and came out to investigate. Eerie video footage from a grocery store surveillance camera across the street on that snowy morning that shows the SUV arriving and then Brancato racing back to the vehicle just as police - whom Enchautegui alerted - arrived.
By then, the cop was dying after being shot in the heart - and after he wounded Brancato and Armento.Brancato's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, conceded that Brancato kicked Scovotti's window but "it was to get his attention." He said Vietnam vet regularly supplied Brancato with pills. "He believed he had permission to enter and get drugs, as he did many times before," the lawyer said.Tacopina also said Borrelli is not be believed because he faces a life sentence for his most recent drug arrest.
"Lillo Brancato is also a victim of Steven Armento," the lawyer said. "Lillo didn't even know Armento was armed." Brancato faces 25-years-to-life, if convicted. Armento, 51, was convicted of murder last month and sentenced to life without parole.
As prosecutors replayed the 911 tape of Enchautegui telling the operator he was going out to investigate a possible break in, his sister, Yolanda Rosa, clutched the hand of Tatyana Timoshenko, the mother of murdered cop Russel Timoshenko.
See my prior post,Sunday, November 23, 2008 , Grainy video allegedly shows NYPD's Timoshenko murder suspect fleeing from stolen BMW, Dexter Bostick also eyed in murder at Universal Auto World
See my prior post,Friday, November 14, 2008, Thug accused of murdering NYPD Russel Timoshenko was laughing, Dexter Bostick also eyed in murder of Collin Thomas at Universal Auto World Long Island
See my prior post Sunday, July 27, 2008, UNIVERSAL AUTO WORLD AND VICTORY TOYOTA USED CAR DEALERSHIPS ON LONG ISLAND CHARGED IN CAR SCAM AND STILL LINKED TO OPEN MURDER CASE.