Priest at center of attack trial due back on stand
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The priest at the center of an assault trial was due back on the stand Thursday after testifying that he never molested the man who prosecutors say beat him.
Lawyers say the Rev. Jerold Lindner was expected endure cross-examination in which he would be asked again whether he abused William Lynch nearly 40 years ago.
Lynch, 44, is accused of beating Lindner in May 2010 at a Los Gatos retirement home for priests near San Jose. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial began with opening statements Wednesday. Lynch claims Lindner raped him in 1975 when he was 7 years old.
Prosecutors concede Lindner is lying when he denies he molested Lynch and Lynch's 4-year-old brother during a church camping trip, but prosecutors also argue that's no defense against assault charges. The Catholic Church earlier settled a civil lawsuit filed by the brothers.
Outside court, Lynch's attorney, Pat Harris, called for prosecutors to charge Lindner with perjury. Santa Clara deputy district attorney Vicki Gemetti didn't respond to email and phone inquiries.
Earlier she told the jury she expected Lindner to falsely deny sexually abusing Lynch.
Nonetheless, she said "it is unmistakable he was beaten" and that Lynch is guilty of assault and elder abuse regardless of Lindner's false denials and "past sins and crimes."
Lynch is charged with felony counts of assault and elder abuse.
In the months since his arrest, Lynch has refused to discuss a plea deal with prosecutors and has grown intent on using his own legal trouble to try Lindner in the court of public opinion in a potentially explosive proceeding. It's likely to also include testimony from more of Lindner's alleged victims.
Lynch faces up to four years in prison if convicted on all charges.
The judge overseeing the case recently ruled that Harris can ask the priest about Lynch's allegations during cross-examination. If Lindner denies the accusations, Harris can call up to three other witnesses who claim they were also molested by Lindner as children, including Lynch's younger brother.
The Lynches, who were 7 and 4 at the time, were raped in the woods and forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched, according to a civil lawsuit. Lindner has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his own sister and nieces and nephews, but was never criminally charged because the allegations were too old.
Lindner hung up Monday when The Associated Press called him for comment. He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and said in a deposition from the late 1990s that he didn't recall the siblings. The brothers settled with the Jesuits of the California Province for $625,000 in 1998.
Getting Lindner into court -- even as a victim -- has helped Lynch find the peace of mind he's been searching for his whole life, he said.
"I don't want to go to jail but I've come to realize that this whole thing is really bigger than me and the way that I've chosen to handle this is to make a statement," Lynch told the AP. "I'm prepared to take responsibility for anything I've been involved in. I'm willing to do it. I think it's a small sacrifice to get Father Jerry into court."
Police said they connected Lynch to the May 2010 attack using phone records. A half hour before the beating, a man identifying himself as "Eric" called the rest home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Lindner of a family member's death.
When Lindner showed up in the lobby, Lynch asked the 65-year-old priest if he recognized him. After the priest said he did not, Lynch began punching him, according to a police account. On a 911 tape, the assailant can be heard yelling, "Turn yourself in or I'll (expletive) come back and kill you," as a receptionist speaks to a dispatcher.
Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital and has since recovered.
Lindner was removed from ministry and placed at the Los Gatos retirement home in 2001. He was named in two additional lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Those cases were included in the record $660 million settlement between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)