Man acquitted of beating of priest he said sexually abused him
SAN JOSE, Calif. (WLS) – William Lynch, the California man who admitted he pummeled a priest who he said abused him as a boy, has been found not guilty of felony assault and elder abuse charges.
The jury of nine men and three women could not reach a verdict on a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault for the 2010 attack at a retirement home.
The jury began deliberations late Monday after hearing impassioned closing arguments from both sides.
The defense’s strategy had long been to prove to the jury that the wrong man was on trial. However, prosecutor Vicki Gemetti urged jurors to focus on the assault.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” she said in her closing arguments on Monday.
Lynch’s crusade for his own form of personal justice against the priest, Jerry Lindner, drew supporters to the courthouse in San Jose, Calif., during his nearly three-week trial. They carried signs that read “stop clergy sex abuse” and condemned the “pedophile playground” retirement community that is home to Lindner, who has had previous allegations against him.
Lynch testified last Friday that he visited Lindner with the intention of having the aging Jesuit sign a confession, but when the priest “looked up and leered” at Lynch in the same manner he did more than 35 years ago when he sexually abused him, Lynch said he ordered the priest to take off his glasses and hit him.
Lynch passed up a plea deal of one year in jail and instead chose to go to trial to publicly shame the man who he said haunted his memories for 35 years.
On a family camping trip 35 years ago, Lynch said he was brutally raped at age 7 by Lindner and was then forced to perform sex acts on his 4-year-old brother.
The boys kept their painful secret for years, long past the six-year statute of limitations California had in place at the time of the alleged crimes.
Lynch got his wish to see the priest in court, even if the tables were turned. Lindner was forced to testify, but a short time later the Jesuit invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The judge struck his testimony from the record.
During his short time on the stand, Lindner, now 67, told the court he remembered Lynch, but only as the man who attacked him at a Los Gatos, Calif., Jesuit retirement community where the priest has resided since 2001.
Lindner denied molesting Lynch and his younger brother on a camping trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1974.
Lynch’s attorney declared the priest had perjured himself and even prosecutor Vicki Gemetti said in her opening statement that she expected Lindner to lie on the stand or say he didn’t remember certain events.
“The evidence will show [Lindner] molested the defendant all those years ago,” she said, but urged the jury to focus on Lynch’s attack.
Lynch’s case of alleged vigilante justice has attracted support from around the world and has shed light on a justice system many view as flawed.
Lynch and his brother were awarded $625,000 after filing a civil suit against Lindner in 1997. The priest was removed from active ministry and was moved to the Jesuit retirement community in 2001.
Lindner was named in two other abuse lawsuits, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
ABC Radio News Contributed To This Report
Los Gatos Priest Beating Case Trial Date Now Changed to June
Pretrial motion Friday postponed until May 3, with jury selection taking place May 14 and presentation of evidence June 19.
By Sheila Sanchez April 7, 2012
Friday’s scheduled pretrial motions in the case against a San Francisco man accused of beating a priest at the Los Gatos Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in May of 2010 have been postponed until 9 a.m., May 3.
William Lynch, 44, has been arraigned on one count of felony assault with intent to cause great bodily injury and one count of elder abuse under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
The scheduled hearing was changed since presiding Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena is tied up with a homicide trial that is running longer than expected.
The pretrial motions hearing, a time for any legal issue that will arise during the high-profile trial to be addressed by the prosecution and the defense, will be followed by jury selection May 14
The presentation of the evidence is expected to start on or around June 19, instead of the earlier reported date of May 29, said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Gemetti.
Jury selection will be performed using jury questionnaires with potential jurors being called in to court and given the document to fill out and then reviewed by the attorneys.
Counsel will then meet and discuss which jurors need to be questioned for so-called “cause,” necessary in every trial to weed down the full veneer of potential jurors to the 12 jurors and alternates who will sit on the case, explained Gemetti.
Attorneys will question the jurors for any biases or any impediments to sit for “cause,” such as someone having been convicted of a similar crime or who may have a family member working in the DA’s office or law enforcement and their objectivity is compromised.
After the panel has been passed for cause, meaning there are no legal reasons why the jurors can’t sit on the case, each attorney will have 10 pre-emptory challenges that can be exercised and they’ll go back and forth to determine which jurors will be sworn in, Gemetti added.
The proceedings are taking place in Judge Cena’s courtroom, department 34 of the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose.
“Once we’ve sworn the jury in … we’re going to stick to that schedule to the best of our abilities,” Gemetti said about the delays in the trial start date. “Obviously trials are fluid and things may change and emergencies do happen, but … once we have those 12 people and they’re told the dates, things won’t change too much.”
The questionnaire presented to the jurors will probably be several pages long containing a list of questions and topics, some inquiries from the court and some submitted by the defense and the prosecution.
Lynch is being represented by Pat Harris and Mark Geragos, with the Los Angeles-based law firm of Geragos & Geragos.
Authorities say he walked into the center’s reception area the afternoon of May 10, 2010 and asked to speak to Father Jerold Lindner. He said he had a death notification about a member of the priest’s family and then allegedly assaulted him.
The case is being closely watched by critics of the Roman Catholic Church who allege Lindner raped and sodomized Lynch and his brother when they were small boys in the ’70s while on camping trips.
If a jury convicts Lynch, he’s could serve a maximum of four years in state prison. The court, however, could grant him probation and give him up to one year in county jail, Gemetti said.
“We have been ready for trial for quite some time,” Gemetti said. “I’m quite anxious to get the matter proceeding.”
Whenever church officials are promoted, we always hope for the best. We hope that church officials will bring in an outsider who has not been involved in an institution that has been marred by cover-ups, or that a priest is promoted instead of a monsignor or fellow bishop. Today, when a Jesuit priest Fr. Thomas Smolich was tapped to head the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, church officials did exactly the opposite of what we hope for. They elevated a man with a horrific record on child sex abuse and who has been allegedly involved in many cover ups.
Smolich, who has worked as President of the Jesuit Conference of the United States since 2006, has a history rife with excusals of predator priests. In 2002, Smolich was working as the Provincial for the California province of the Jesuits. When Angel Crisostomo Mariano was sued in civil court for abusing a mentally disabled man, Smolich denied knowing much about Mariano at all, despite the fact that, at that point, Smolich had been roommates with Mariano for two years.
Beyond living with credibly accused predator priests, Smolich has housed other convicted and accused predators at the Sacred Heart Center in Los Gatos, CA where these predators have been able to mix with vulnerable adults, in some cases abusing them. Fr. James Chevedden was wheelchair-bound and living at Sacred Heart when he was abused by serial predator Br. Charles Leonard Connor (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/12309408.htm).
Tragically, Fr. Chevedden died by suicide or a staged suicide three years after reporting the abuse, and the Jesuits later settled with Chevedden’s surviving family in a wrongful death suit.
Smolich has housed and protected more than just Br. Connor, however. At least five credibly-accused or convicted predators have lived at Sacred Heart (Fr. Connor, Fr. Jerold Lidner, Fr. Edward Thomas Burke, Fr. Mariano, and Br. John Moniz) (http://www.detnews.com/2002/religion/0207/01/religion-526386.htm). These men were afforded the opportunity to not only avoid responsibility for their crimes, but also the chance to abuse others.
Clearly, Smolich is more focused on protecting his fellow Jesuits than he is deterring them from abusing children and vulnerable adults or making sure that citizens are safe from other predators within the Society of Jesus. We are deeply concerned that Smolich is the type of man who is, at least according to the Catholic hierarchy, worthy of promotion. We wonder how many more people have been or will be abused by his protection of predator priests, and we worry about how this promotion will allow this type of behavior to continue.
Smolich should be demoted, not promoted.
We urge anyone who has been abused by any priest, Jesuit or otherwise, to immediately go to the police and work to put the predator in jail. That’s the best way to keep kids safe. The Jesuits are still not doing what they should to safeguard the vulnerable and expose child molesting clerics.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)