NJ professor mentally unfit for trial in cathedral arson plot
NEW YORK — The New Jersey college philosophy teacher charged with plotting to burn down St. Patrick's Cathedral is not mentally fit for trial, state prosecutors said Thursday.
Judge Neil Ross of Manhattan Supreme Court said he plans to commit Marc Lamparello to a mental health facility for rehabilitation.
The results of Lamparello's court-ordered psychiatric evaluation will postpone his case indefinitely.
The Hasbrouck Heights man was arrested in April after police said he took gas cans and lighters into the landmark church.
The incident happened days after flames ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris — a blaze investigators say could have been caused by a malfunctioning electrical system or a smoldering cigarette.
Lamparello had booked a flight to Rome for the day after his arrest and a hotel just 20 minutes from the Vatican.
Police in Newark had arrested Lamparello two nights before the St. Patrick's incident after he allegedly refused to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart at closing time after a late Mass.
Prosecutors have said Lamparello, who has taught at Lehman College in New York City and Seton Hall University, spent a considerable amount of time surveilling St. Patrick's.
Upon entering the cathedral, he was stopped by a church employee who told police he saw gasoline spill out of one of the canisters Lamparello was holding.
When confronted by police, Lamparello said that his vehicle had run out of gas and that he was "taking a short cut through the church," according to a court document.
Lamparello has pleaded not guilty to attempted arson and reckless endangerment.
His defense attorney, Chris DiLorenzo, has attributed the St. Patrick's incident to a psychotic episode. He said Lamparello, 37, has undergone mental health treatment for years.
Lamparello is expected back in court next week to learn the details of his commitment.