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Friday, May 05, 2006
'Sopranos' Actor Seeks Separate Trial

"Sopranos" actor Lillo Brancato Jr., who is charged with murder in the killing of a police officer, asked a judge on Thursday for a separate trial because he wants his co-defendant to testify in his defense.

Brancato's lawyer, Mel Sachs, said co-defendant Steven Armento could testify that Brancato did not know that Armento had a gun at the time of the Dec. 10 shooting.

Prosecutors agree that Armento was the shooter, but Brancato also is charged with murder because both men were allegedly in the midst of a burglary at a Bronx apartment when off-duty officer Daniel Enchautegui was killed.

Prosecutors say the defendants told police that they had been together at a strip club before breaking into an apartment in search of prescription drugs. Enchautegui, who lived next door, confronted them in an alley and was mortally wounded during a shootout.

Brancato "has an absolute defense as a matter of law to the murder charge," Sachs said after a hearing. "He did not know that Armento had a gun."

Armento, 48, shook his head "no" when Sachs suggested to Justice Steven Barrett that the co-defendant would testify for Brancato.

Sachs also requested that some of Brancato's statements to police in the days immediately after the killing be kept out of any trial. He said because Brancato had been shot twice by Enchautegui before the officer died, his client was in no shape in the hospital to be making statements to police.

The judge did not immediately rule on the attorney's requests. The case was adjourned until July 11.



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