Lillo Brancato From Jail: 'The Drugs Always Win'

In first interview since trial, actor on the crime that killed his career.

ByABC News
February 18, 2009, 5:16 PM

Feb. 19, 2009— -- In the Riker's Island jail, where he spent much of last three years, 32-year-old Lillo Brancato couldn't help but agree with a grim assessment.

"You threw it away," he was told.

"Yeah, I did," he said. "I'm ashamed."

That's because back in 1993, when his young face lit up the screen in "A Bronx Tale," Lillo Brancato looked to the entire world like a teenager on the brink of showbiz greatness.

For Brancato, "The sky was the limit," thought Chazz Palminteri, who'd created "A Bronx Tale" from the hard-won lessons and stories of his own life.

Then just 16, Brancato was plucked from obscurity to work with actor/writer Palminteri and actor/director Robert DeNiro to play a starring role in what would be one of the era's most fondly regarded films.

"I remember it so clear, as we were shooting -- I remember, I said, 'I hope we're not cursing this kid,'" said Palminteri in an interview with "20/20."

Brancato was given a once-in-a-generation opportunity in the movie business. But 16 years later, opportunity of any kind is nowhere to be found.

"I squandered it," he said, in his first interview since his trial.

The events that brought Brancato from celluloid fame to a prison cell still reverberate in the lives of so many; events that culminated in one horrific night in a Bronx driveway, on Dec. 10, 2005. When it was over, Daniel Enchautegui, a 28-year-old police officer, lay dead and Brancato -- the movie star -- would be charged with the officer's murder.