Me- “Yes, it is, thank you so much for calling.”
Lillo- “No, I would like to thank you for giving me an opportunity to share a few things.”
That is how this insightful conversation began with A Bronx Tale star Lillo Brancato, Jr. There is no mistaking his New York accent. Sounding both confident and humble, it was clear I was speaking to a man that did not match the description the media presented just 9 years ago.
On December 10, 2005, Brancato was arrested by the New York City Police Department in the Bronx on suspicion of murdering an off-duty police officer, Daniel Enchautegui. Enchautegui had served with the New York City Police Department for three years and was assigned to the 40th Precinct in the Bronx. Enchautegui confronted Brancato and his accomplice, 48-year-old Steven Armento, outside at a vacant house located at 3119 Arnow Place, next to his own, after hearing glass break. While Enchautegui waited for backup, a gunfight erupted and Enchautegui was shot. He was later taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where he died. Police arrested Brancato and Armento in the vicinity, both with multiple gunshot wounds and in critical condition.
Brancato shared, at the time of the crime he was living a life seized by addiction. His destructive actions were fueled by drugs and alcohol. Now 8 years sober, he discovered while incarcerated that he didn’t need drugs to get through tough times. Acquiring patience and resilience behind bars, Lillo apprehended the opportunity to finish his education. Brancato collected his GED, and Associates Degree in Business Management from Ashworth College in Norcross, GA online.
“Education is the best investment”, states Lillo, “you can invest in a friendship, in which it has the potential to go wrong, but an education will last your entire life.” This statement reminded me of the words of wisdom the character Lorenzo often gave his character Calogero in A Bronx Tale. Most notably, “a waste of talent”, the undeniable irony sticks out like three fingers, Brancato and his character were one in a same. He made bad choices, suffered the consequences, and learned from his mistakes.
In Ferguson, MO, the current case of a cop killing a defenseless victim has created media frenzy. If anyone can relate to being in a highly publicized case involving law enforcement, it would definitely be this now mentor and motivational speaker. When asked about Ferguson, Lillo gave a direct answer, “Anyone killed in this manor or situation is a tragedy, period.” Brancato has been labeled as a cop-killer; sure he too was shot in the stomach during the exchange of bullets and he didn’t even pull a trigger. Nonetheless Lillo feels responsible for a man’s life being cut short. Recently playing the role of a priest in Monsters of Mulberry St., Brancato now chooses roles showing sensitivity to the role violence once played in his reality.
Presently, Lillo attends AA meetings to continue his life of sobriety. More effectively, he mentors students at Mount Vernon high school of New York, speaks to youth groups involved with the Boys & Girls club and multiple youth groups of Yonkers.
“The last thing I want to do is let these kids down” comments Brancato. “If I give up on sobriety or make bad choices these kids might do the same.” Along with mentoring he has a few projects in the works. In September, there is a pilot surrounding a boxing gym being presented to Netflix. As well as a chance to use his business degree, another project presents a shot at the producing aspect. In so much detail he was able to reveal that the endeavor does include the use of a prison library, which this college alum can relate.
Brancato feels, in his words, “blessed to have my freedom”. The actor only shaved 6 months off of his sentence by continuing his education. Celebrities often get off with a slap on the wrist for the crimes they commit. A grateful Brancato, ” I just got a second chance at life, and I will not take it for granted. There are doors of opportunity, not all doors open because of my past, I understand, and that is okay.”
I can’t help but to wonder if Obama’s administration was to have a conversation with a man like Lillo, would they take ownership for their responsibility in Benghazi, Fast & the Furious, or even the VA Scandal? Would they continue to be hypocrites in demanding transparency from the Ferguson police department? Or does Obama and his gang simply need Jesus?
After hanging up the phone I realized Brancato obtained three educations, one from school, one from the streets, and one from the bible. Like Sonny, Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder may have overlooked the third thinking “nobody cares”.
Follow Lillo Brancato, Jr. on Twitter @lillobrancato Instagram- Lillo_Brancato