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Queens Dem leader slaying tied to cops

James Bishop, the late district leader and painters' union head who was shot to death in a Beechurst parking lot, was one of 11 victims who former Officers Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito are charged with conspiring to murder, according to the indictment.While working as New York Police Department detectives, Caracappa and Eppolito led double lives, the indictment charges, carrying out mob hits on Gambino crime family associates and accepting as much as $4,000 a month from a Luchese family under boss for top-secret law enforcement information.They are being charged with aiding in eight murders, two attempted hits, one murder conspiracy, several instances of obstruction of justice, drug distribution and money laundering. The vicious daytime shooting of Bishop, 60, outside his mistress' Cryder Point apartment changed the political landscape in northeast Queens in the 1990s. Within two weeks of the execution-style slaying, state Sen. Leonard Stavisky (D-Whitestone) dropped his bid for a congressional seat in a move that shut the door on Democratic district leader Brian McLaughlin's plans to run for Stavisky's seat. Bishop was a district leader in Stavisky's coverage area.Bishop, who was accused of being controlled as a union leader by the Luchese crime family in a Daily News article three months before he was gunned down, had complained of death threats after the press coverage.Caracappa and Eppolito, who joined the NYPD in 1969, started working for Luchese family under boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso in 1987 after he had been shot several times in an unsuccessful attempt on his life, according to the indictment. "These corrupt former detectives betrayed their shields, their colleagues, and the citizens they were sworn to protect," said U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf for the Eastern District. "These defendants will rightfully face justice, ensuring that their conduct will never tarnish the reputation of a proud and honorable police department."Casso paid the pair as much as $4,000 a month for classified police information, the indictment charges. In the spring of 1990, documents show that the detectives ratted out Bishop as an informant for an investigation into the Luchese family and the painters' union, the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades District Council No. 9. The feds were investigating union officials for allegedly taking kickbacks which allowed contractors to break union rules.Bishop was the secretary-treasurer of the union in the 1970s and 1980s and served on the executive board of the Central Labor Trades Council. He also was a Democratic district leader in Whitestone in the 1980s, a post that brought his political allies heat when the union's ties to the Luchese crime family were exposed in the News.Both Stavisky and McLaughlin defended Bishop's ability to hold a political position at the time."We knew him as a labor leader and as somebody involved with children's programs," said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone), the widow of the late senator who took over his seat when he died in 1999. "Obviously we had no knowledge (of his ties to the mob). The allegations were that he was working with the law enforcement authorities."McLaughlin, who served on the Central Labor Council board with Bishop and was a district leader in the same region, also stood up for Bishop based on his record as a union organizer.Bishop resigned his union post a year before the relationship between the Luchese crime family and painters' union was publicized in the News. His successor as secretary-treasurer of the painters' union was arrested on racketeering charges involving extortion and bribery the day after Bishop was killed.. U.S. Rep. James Scheuer's (D-Bayside) camp immediately attacked Stavisky for his ties to Bishop in the wake of the mob-style shooting.A week later, Stavisky announced he was dropping out of the race, scotching his Washington, D.C. hopes and McLaughlin's state senate aspirations.Stavisky's widow said Bishop's slaying had nothing to do with her husband's decision to not seek higher office."We came home from one fund-raising activity and Leonard said to me, 'I've had enough, it's demeaning to ask people for money, I've had it, I'm not going to ask people for money for a race for Congress,'" she recalled. "It would have been a very expensive congressional race."Nevertheless, Stavisky's decision not to run changed the course of both his and McLaughlin's careers. McLaughlin did not return calls for comment.A U.S. attorney's office spokesman said Caracappa and Eppolito were still in Las Vegas, where they live, and would likely appear in Brooklyn federal court early next week. The Daily News reported that Eppolito is trying to hire attorney Bruce Cutler, who represented Gambino family don John Gotti and took Eppolito's case when these charges first surfaced in 1994. "The appalling conduct of two rogue cops threatens to undermine the effectiveness of the rest of us in law enforcement, especially the NYPD," FBI Assistant Director Pasquale D'Amuro said. "But this case is not indicative of any institutional deficiency. Eppolito and Caracappa were not two good cops who went bad. It seems clear they were two bad guys who somehow became cops." Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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