NEW YORK — Prosecutors say a college philosophy teacher accused of taking gas cans and lighters into Manhattan's St. Patrick's Cathedral last week had also booked a hotel near the Vatican but the attorney for the man says it was all part of a psychotic episode.
Details about Marc Lamparello's case emerged during a brief court appearance Wednesday conducted via video hookup from his hospital bed. A judge ordered Lamparello to undergo a psychological evaluation before his next court date in May on attempted arson and reckless endangerment charges.
Lamparello's attorney Christopher DiLorenzo told The Associated Press "it is clear that Mr. Lamparello suffered from a psychotic episode, and the events leading up to and including the event at St. Patrick's Cathedral support this conclusion."
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Assistant District Attorney David Stuart said during the hearing that the 37-year-old Lamparello was "planning to burn down St. Patrick's Cathedral," and that he spent "considerable time planning and surveilling" the church.
Police previously said Lamparello had booked a flight to Rome for the day after his arrest. Stuart said Wednesday that Lamparello had booked a hotel just 20 minutes from the Vatican, but he made no further remarks about Lamparello's intentions.
DiLorenzo said he has seen no evidence that his client was planning something sinister overseas.
Lamparello told police his vehicle had run out of gas and that he was "taking a short cut through the church," according to a charging document made public Wednesday.
The document says Lamparello was stopped by a church employee upon entering the cathedral. The employee told police that he saw gasoline spill out of one of the canisters Lamparello was holding.
The New York incident happened just days after flames ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a blaze investigators believe was most likely caused by an electrical short circuit.
Police in Newark, New Jersey, 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.
Stuart indicated that prosecutors will seek to have Lamparello, who has taught at Lehman College in New York City and Seton Hall University in New Jersey, held on $500,000 bond pending trial. If convicted, he could get up to 15 years in prison.