NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey man accused of attempting to set fire to St. Patrick’s Cathedral faced a judge for arraignment Friday on a slew of charges.
CBS2’s Reena Roy was in the courtroom for his appearance at Manhattan Criminal Court.
In an orange jumpsuit and his hands cuffed behind his back, 37-year-old Marc Lamparello pleaded not guilty after prosecutors say he brought two canisters of gasoline, lighter fluid and barbecue lighters in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
He’s charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.
“It’s not a terrorism act. It’s a person with a serious illness going through a serious event in his life,” said defense attorney Chris DiLorenzo. “He seems to be improving. He’s handling himself well at this point.”
Lamparello’s defense attorney told Roy he suffers from schizophrenia, and was found unfit during a psychological evaluation after his arrest.
Authorities say the New Jersey man was spotted in the foyer of the church on April 17 behaving strangely and spilling gas, just days after the Notre Dame fire in Paris.
“Our people were suspicious and walked the man out, immediately called the police, they apprehended him and now he’s secure,” Timothy Cardinal Dolan said after Lamparello was intercepted.
Lamparello told police he wanted to cut through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue because his vehicle had run out of gas. When police went to check on his minivan, they found the car was not on Madison Avenue, but on Fifth Avenue near the church.
A few days before the incident, Lamparello was also arrested at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark for allegedly refusing to leave after closing time. That was the day Notre Dame went up in flames. Police say he didn’t reference the Paris cathedral at the time.
Lamparello previously worked as the music director at St. Joseph’s Church in East Rutherford and an adjunct professor of philosophy at Seton Hall.
On Friday, prosecutors challenged the results of the first psychiatric evaluation and asked for another independent exam.
Lamparello’s due back in court in a few weeks.