New York City Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch is reacting to the controversy surrounding the appearance of a former actor, who served jail time for his connection to a NYPD officer’s death, at Union City High School earlier this week.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“No school district should let Lillo Brancato anywhere near its students,” Lynch told HCV in a statement.
“There is nothing positive about his story. If we want students to understand the terrible consequences of crime and drugs, we should be teaching them about the sacrifices of heroes like Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui, whose death Brancato caused.”
Brancato spoke at Union City High School as part of a “Substance Abuse Awareness Assembly” on Tuesday, a joint effort between the Union City Board of Education and the New Jersey Reentry Corporation.
After the fact, the star of “A Bronx Tale,” who later earned a small reoccurring role in “The Sopranos,” drew the ire of some members of the local law enforcement community over his role in the 2005 shooting death of NYPD Officer Daniel Enchautegui.
According to The New York Times, Brancato was charged with felony murder in connection to the officer’s death, but was acquitted of that charge and convicted on attempted burglary.
He served eight years in prison after receiving a 10-year sentence and was paroled on December 31st, 2013.
The subject was addressed at last night’s Union City Board of Education meeting, where Superintendent of Schools Silvia Abbato read a statement nearly identical to what was released on their website yesterday – though she added some of her own commentary at the tail end of her speech.
“I’d like to also add, again, that 3,200 individuals died of drug overdoses in the State of New Jersey and it is an epidemic that we as a district must address,” she began.
“We are proud of our new schools, proud of our board of education, our mayor, and we will continue to provide, as Gov. Murphy said last Monday in Union City, extraordinary educational means.”
The crowd of a few dozen people on hand seemed unfazed by any of the negative feelings Brancato’s presence evoked, giving Abbato a loud round of applause once it appeared she was done speaking.
As HCV noted yesterday, Abbato also said that Brancato participated in a reentry conference at St. Peter’s University last year and that situation did not lead to any contention or backlash.
During the public portion of the meeting, responding to a question from this reporter, Abbato said that Brancato has done a number of public speeches for free in the past few years and that she felt he did a great job of connecting with the students.
“I was present during the presentation: you could hear a pin drop because he was so touching to the students. He doesn’t deny that he made a great mistake in his life. He was an accessory to murder, he did not commit the murder, he was an accessory to murder,” the superintendent explained.
“A murder is a murder, especially when it comes to our police officers. Mr. Brancato said that if he could take it over, do it over, he would never do that. His message for the students was, which was a very powerful message, your friends will determine your future.”
Responding to a follow-up question of how Brancato was approved to participate in the reentry panel, Abbato said that new internal protocols will be established for anyone seeking to be a part of a function affiliated with the Union City Public Schools.
No one else asked any questions regarding Brancato and the meeting only lasted for a total of about 15 minutes.
The Union City police unions, the BOE as a whole, and state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack all expressed regret and disappointment about the situation prior to yesterday’s meeting.
According to a flyer for the event, Union City BOE Director of Community Relations Mercedes Joaquin, Stack’s significant other, and Rev. Bolivar Flores, of the NJRC, were in charge of organizing the panel.