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Penn State Alumna Charged With Nittany Lion Shrine Vandalism Accepted Into ARD Program

A Penn State alumna who admitted to vandalizing the Nittany Lion Shrine and other University Park campus landmarks last year was accepted into a pre-trial intervention program Wednesday and ordered to pay more than $40,000 in restitution.

Julia Cipparulo of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, was admitted into a 24-month Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, which gives defendants with little to no previous criminal record an opportunity to have charges dismissed and their records expunged upon completion. Centre County Judge Brian Marshall approved her admission into the program during ARD Court at the Courthouse Annex in Bellefonte.

As conditions of the program, Cipparulo must pay $41,977.85 in restitution to Penn State and cannot be on university property without prior authorization from the Centre County Probation and Parole Department.

She will be under the supervision of the probation office for the duration of the program, undergo a mental health evaluation, and complete two days of community service. ARD participants also cannot use controlled substances and must remain arrest-free.

Cipparulo was charged in June 2022 with third-degree felony counts of institutional vandalism and criminal mischief. Charges of theft and receiving stolen property were also filed but subsequently withdrawn.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Penn State University Police, Cipparulo broke an ear off of the 81-year-old Nittany Lion Shrine and doused it in red paint in the early morning hours of May 8, 2022, during commencement weekend. The popular campus photo spot was closed to the public for about three weeks.

Police identified Cipparulo as the suspect after recognizing her on surveillance video footage as the same person who splashed teal paint on the statue and used permanent markers to vandalize Old Main and the Hintz Family Alumni Center in 2021. 

After police served a search warrant on her home, investigators told her that returning the ear would mitigate the cost of the damage. She later took police to another location where the ear was stored and returned it, according to the affidavit.

A note on her phone detailed her plan to travel to State College and commit the vandalism, police wrote, and store records showed she purchased red paint and mineral spirits on May 7. Police also said they found a note in her trash detailing items she would need and several State College addresses.

She told police she “felt like a disgrace” because she “tricked people into coming to Penn State” while she was a Lion Ambassador, according to the affidavit.

“I’m tired of people not talking about it. That’s why I’m forcing people to talk about it,” Cipparulo allegedly told police. “This was my peaceful protest. The back of the lion is red, because to the front it looks like everything is OK. Just like Penn State. From the back, it’s all bloody and broken.”

Cipparulo also wrote the names of four Penn State community members who died in the past six years behind the statue: Osaze [Osagie], Timothy [Piazza], Ashley [Pauls], and Justine [Gross]. She spray-painted “death by cop,” “death by hazing,” “death by suicide,” and “death by PSU culture” on the doors of Old Main, and spray-painted “FTG,” the acronym for the Penn State slogan “For the Glory,” on the doors of the Alumni Center.

“Why should we chase glory anyway? When did that become more important than the lives and well-being of Penn State students?” Cipparulo wrote in a June 2022 email to Onward State, which was accompanied by a 32-page essay in which she detailed her reasons for committing the vandalism.

Cipparulo called Penn State a “blueprint for mishandling, negligence, and concealing sexual abuse, hazing, and student deaths.” She stated that post-traumatic stress disorder was a factor in her decision to vandalize the landmarks, alleging that she experienced “repeated rape and sexual coercion” at Penn State and “nearly died” four times.

Cipparulo said the night of the vandalism she lit candles at Old Main, the Bryce Jordan Center, the State College Municipal Building, Beaver Terrace Apartments, and the Beta Theta Pi house.

“They considered it an attack on the university, and failed to considered the constant attacks that the school rages against the students,” she wrote in her statement. “If vandalism is the worst attack you have faced, consider yourself blessed…It’s not enough on my part. But that broken ear is a permanent reminder of the dark side of Penn State.”

Cipparulo told police she acted alone.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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