Former Seton Hall adjunct philosophy professor Marc Lamparello was arraigned in the New York Criminal Court Wednesday evening. Lamaparello is charged with one felony count of attempted arson and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment. If found guilty, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Prosecutors also recommended Lamparello be held on a bond of $500,000 and surrender his passport. Additionally, the court ordered Lamparello to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Lamaparello was taken into custody and later arrested by NYPD counterterrorism officers on April 17 after walking into St. Patrick’s Cathedral with gasoline cans. The incident occurred just two days after the devastating blaze that nearly destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
In a press conference, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters that Lamparello pulled up in a minivan near the cathedral around 8:00 p.m. He then proceeded to remove two 2-gallon gasoline cans, two butane lighters and two bottles of lighter fluid from the vehicle and proceeded to make his way up the church steps.
Lamparello was then stopped and confronted by a cathedral security officer inside the building who informed him that he couldn’t enter the church with the materials. According to Miller, it was at that time that Lamparello reportedly spilled gasoline on the church floor while exiting the building, prompting the security officer to alert counterterrorism officers who were stationed outside.
When officers questioned Lamparello, Miller described his answers as “inconsistent and evasive” but noted that he remained conversational, telling officers he had been trying to cut through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue and that his car had run out of gas. Officers then found his vehicle and determined it was not out of gas at which point he was taken into custody. Lamparello has since been charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment and trespassing in connection with the incident at St. Patrick’s.
Miller told reporters that although initially they hadn’t determined a motive, it didn’t appear to be terroristic in nature. He did note, though, “the totality of circumstances—of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, carrying over two gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters—is something that we would have great concern over.” Miller added that Lamparello had also booked a $2,800 ticket to Rome set to depart last Thursday evening before arriving at St. Patrick’s.
The New York Archdiocese, which oversees St. Patrick’s, declined to comment on the matter, but did note that they are grateful that “the security system – both the internal cathedral security and the officers of the NYPD – worked, and that nobody was hurt and there was no damage to the cathedral.”
Prior to the incident at St. Patrick’s, Miller noted Lamparello had also apparently been arrested earlier that week at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark after he had refused to leave when the building closed.
Maria Margiotta, director of communications for the Newark Archdiocese, said that “Cathedral Basilica’s security team is vigilant and ensures a safe environment for all those who visit.”
A graduate with a philosophy degree from Boston College, Lamparello taught Philosophy 1101, Intro to Philosophy in the Spring 2018 semester and Philosophy 1105 for the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters as an adjunct professor.
Lamparello, who had been scheduled to teach two sections of Ethics the evening of his arrest, sent an email canceling class on account of an “unforeseen illness” and said that the classes would meet again following Easter Break.
Laurie Pine, Seton Hall’s director of media relations, confirmed in a statement that Lamparello was no longer employed by the University as April 17, “Although Marc Lamparello had an appointment as a part-time adjunct instructor at Seton Hall for the Spring 2019 semester, he is no longer working at the University.” Pine said.
In an email to students regarding the incident, Lamparello, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Peter Shoemaker told students that Philosophy Department Chair Abe Zakhem would take over Lamparello’s sections for the remainder of the semester.
In addition to his adjunct professorship at Seton Hall, Lamparello was also listed as a part-time philosophy instructor who has taught at New York City’s Lehman and Brooklyn colleges.
In a statement, Lehman College spokesperson Sarah Ramsey said “We are aware that an individual was arrested last night after an incident at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The individual was hired at Lehman College during this academic year, and was a part-time, online instructor this semester. We are taking the appropriate steps to terminate the individual’s employment with the college.” As of Wednesday evening, Lamparello was no longer listed on Brooklyn College’s website.
Junior physics major Maddie Guerrero, who took Lamparello for Ethics in the Fall 2018 semester, said that to her Lamparello was a great professor and was shocked to discover that he had been arrested for attempted arson. “I recommended him to all of my sisters in my sorority because his class was an easy ‘A’ because it was so discussion based,” Guerrero noted. She did say that there were some quirks that she found to be strange, such as his tendency to bring four beverages to each class, but said that overall he was a good professor.
Elyse Whary, a freshman undecided major, echoed the sentiments of Guererro, calling him “very knowledgable” and noted that she would’ve never pegged him as someone who would attempt arson.
In the aftermath of the incident at St. Patrick’s, some students have also begun to call into question Seton Hall’s hiring practices after Lamparello’s aforementioned arrest at the Cathedral Basilica in Newark three days prior to his arrest at St. Patrick’s came to light.
University officials said that University policy precludes them from releasing private personnel information but that “policy requires that all faculty, including adjunct faculty, have appropriate background checks prior to working at the University. Seton Hall’s top priority is the education, safety and welfare of our students and members of our campus community.”
Guerrero said that she doesn’t fault the University for not firing Lamparello earlier, saying she felt that Lamparello’s situation was a fluke, adding she never felt unsafe on-campus as a result of his presence.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @NickKerr99.