(NEW YORK) — A part-time philosophy professor pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he tried to set fire to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York just a few days after a fire tore through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Marc Lamparello, 37, was arrested at the historic cathedral in April after security stopped him with two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters.
He pleaded not guilty to attempted arson, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.
Though Lamparello was stopped before he could do any damage the attempted arson drew extra attention because it came the same week that a fire tore through Notre Dame, the landmark of Gothic architecture that sits in the heart of France’s capital.
It took several hours for hundreds of firefighters in France to quell the flames, which ignited during an evening mass on April 15 at the start of Holy Week, the busiest and most important period of the liturgical year. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, though early indications were that it was accidental.
Lamparello had told officers he was merely taking a shortcut through the church to reach his car, which he claimed had run out of gas.
“His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller told reporters following the arrest. “We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas and at that point he was taken into custody.”
Sources with the New York City Police Department told ABC News that he also purchased a one-way ticket to Rome, which was scheduled to depart from Newark, New Jersey, the next night.
Lamparello was a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the City University of New York, and taught at several colleges and universities, including Brooklyn College.
The famous cathedral, which opened its doors nearly 200 years ago, serves as seat of the New York Archdiocese.
His attorneys have indicated that they will argue Lamparello is unfit to stand trial. In the meantime Lamparello is being held without bail.
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