A jury's decision on Monday to clear a former actor on The Sopranos of killing a New York City policeman during a bungled 2005 burglary has left the victim's sister outraged.
"What message is this sending out to the New York City police officers today? It's wrong," Yolanda Rosa Nazario, sister of the slain officer, said of the verdict handed actor Lillo Brancato Jr., the Associated Press reports.
Convicted of a lesser charge of attempted burglary, Brancato, 32, now faces from three to 15 years in prison – though he could receive credit for time served, having already been incarcerated for nearly three years.
Prosecutors said that in December 2005 Brancato – who played a petty mobster wannabe on The Sopranos – and accomplice Steven Armento broke into a basement apartment to steal prescription drugs after a night of boozing at a strip club.
Off-duty officer Daniel Enchautegui, 28, who lived next door to the apartment, came to investigate and was hit in the heart by Armento, using a .357 Magnum. The dying Enchautegui fired back and wounded both men.
Earlier this year, Armento, 48, was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole.
Admits to Drug Problem
Brancato, who admits to having abused drugs and alcohol, claimed no knowledge of Armento's carrying a weapon. He also said he did not directly participate in the murder and was carrying no weapon, reports AP.
Brancato's attorney, Joseph Tacopina, described his client as being relieved with the jury's verdict. "There was never going to be smiles," he said. "This is not a case that warrants that."
Brancato's sentencing is set for Jan. 9. District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said he would seek "the maximum sentence that the law allows." http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20248697,00.html