Former Sopranos actor Lillo Brancato Jr. has lived a hard life. But after spending eight years in prison, he wants to give back by helping young people avoid the pitfalls and dangers of drug abuse.
“Here I am, I get the opportunity, I get the shot and then squander it, and do what I did, and get addicted to drugs and just make horrible decisions,” Brancato said in an interview broadcast Sunday on WNYM-AM.
The 26-year-old – who got his break in the 1993 film A Bronx Tale with Robert De Niro – was convicted in 2005 after a Bronx break-in left an off-duty police officer dead. He was paroled in December.
Brancato, who admitted the last time he got high was in prison in 2006, said he wants to share his experiences of uncontrollable addiction with young people.
According to prosecutors, Brancato was drinking at a Bronx strip club with a Genovese crime family associate, Steven Armento, when they decided to break into a nearby basement apartment and steal Valium.
Off-duty Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who lived in the neighborhood, was awakened by the sound of shattering glass awoke and came to the rescue. According to prosecutors, he confronted the men and a gunbattle erupted, with Armento firing first.
— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) April 27, 2014
As Enchautegui lay dying, he managed to shoot Brancato and Armento. The wounded actor was arrested as he tried to get into his car, authorities said.
Armento was convicted of murder in the officer’s death when they determined the fatal shot came from his gun. Brancato was acquitted of murder but convicted of attempted burglary.
In the interview with WNYM-AM, he said he realizes some of the actors who’ve worked with him in the past may not be willing to do so again.
“At least, see the person that I am today, see the person that I’ve grown up into,” he said. “I definitely had to learn the hard way, but I am no longer that person who was present that night.”
The most important thing he learned in prison, Brancato said, “is how to get through tough times” — without drugs.
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