NEW YORK – "Sopranos" actor Lillo Brancato Jr. is set to go to trial next month in the alleged murder of an off-duty New York police officer — but he says drugs are to blame.
"There's a saying in Italian, I'll say it in English: 'When the devil caresses you, he wants your soul,'" Brancato told CBS 2HD, referring to cocaine as his devil. "I'm not the monster that they portray me as in newspapers, a cold-blooded killer and all of that. I'm not that person at all."
A judge ruled last Friday that Brancato, 32, and co-defendant Steven Armento would be tried separately — both for murder — on Oct. 28 and Sept. 29 respectively. Prosecutors wanted them tried together.
Authorities said the two broke into an apartment to look for prescription drugs in December 2005. Officer Daniel Enchautegui confronted them and was killed in a shootout. Armento is accused of firing the fatal shot.
Brancato, who played an aspiring mobster on HBO's "The Sopranos," says he didn't know Armento had a gun.
"I know in my heart I was in no way responsible for the death of that police officer," he told CBS 2HD.
Brancato is a self-confessed drug addict who got his first movie role at age 16 and starred in "A Bronx Tale," opposite Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri.
"The first time I ever got high smoking pot, really it was the first drug I ever did, it was on film," he told CBS 2HD.
Brancato remembers being so high during a scene in "A Bronx Tale" that he could hardly speak. A year later he was using cocaine and battled addiction for the next 12 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.