Judge in priest beating case sends jury home for the week without explanation

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Posted: 06/21/2012 10:27:20 AM PDT

Updated: 06/21/2012 12:46:53 PM PDT

By Tracey Kaplan


Will Lynch's trial on charges of beating priest begins

Will Lynch’s trial on charges of beating priest begins

Co-counsel, Paul Mones, left, advises Will Lynch as he arrives for his trial, at the Hall of Justice, in San Jose, on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Supporters were on hand with placards, protesting the fact that Father Jerold Lindner was never brought to trial for his abuses on Lynch. Lynch in 2010 allegedly beat Lindner, whom he says sexually assaulted him and his brother when they were boys of 7 and 4 years of age. (Karen T. Borchers/Staff)

The judge in the priest beating trial sent the jury home today without hearing any testimony, offering no explanation for the move.

Speculation is rampant about why Judge David Cena sent the jury home until Monday at 10 a.m., and ordered the lawyers back in court at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

San Francisco resident Will Lynch is accused of beating Father Jerrold Lindner at a Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos. Lynch claims Lindner molested Lynch and his brother when they were young.

Lindner took the stand Wednesday afternoon and was scheduled to resume his testimony today.

Given how distressed the prosecutors looked in court this morning, a couple of scenarios for the judge’s action today are highly likely, legal experts say.

First, the defense may have filed a motion for dismissal or a mistrial based on the contention that Lindner committed perjury Wednesday on the stand when he said he did not molest the Lynches.

If that’s the case, it doesn’t help the prosecution that they had conceded in their opening statement he was likely to lie.

Second, it’s highly possible that Lindner, who had a lawyer with him in court yesterday, plans to take the Fifth and will refuse to testify on the grounds that he could incriminate himself.

Given Lynch’s constitutional right to confront his accuser, that might be grounds for a mistrial.

It’s also possible that the prosecution offered Lynch a plea deal — and he’s refusing to take it.

Another strong possibility is that two other victims have responded to the publicity about the trial and come forward, claiming Lindner molested them.

It’s unclear whether they’ve talked to the prosecution yet — and whether that might be coloring the situation.

There’s a more routine possibility for the unexpected delay.

At the end of the day yesterday, Harris asked the judge to instruct Lindner in front of the jury that the priest “has chosen to perjure himself,” and should be advised of his right to counsel.”

Judge Cena had said he would consider it.

The lawyers may need extra time to prepare legal briefs.

The judge also issued a stern warning to the jury to avoid even inadvertently learning anything about the case, including from neighbors or friends. “There is media about this case,” he said. “You will decide this case on what you hear inside this courtroom.”

Given the judge’s determination to keep the jury from being tainted, it would be surprising if either the prosecution or defense spoke openly about the cause of the delay.

One last possible reason that the priest’s testimony today was postponed could be that the lawyers disagree on how far defense attorneys Pat Harris and Paul Monas can go in their cross-examination of Lindner.

How specific can they get about his alleged acts?

Can they ask him about allegations that he molested his sister, nieces and nephew?

Can they ask him if his mother did indeed catch him molesting his 5-year-old sister, as she told the Los Angeles Times 10 years ago?

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement calling for the prosecution to charge Lindner with perjury.

“To let him get by with lying on the witness stand would be an affront to Will Lynch, other child sex abuse victims, and to justice itself,” SNAP’s outreach director Barbara Dorris said in the emailed statement.

SNAP is also calling on the public to demand that the DA’s Office prosecute Lindner.

The group argues in a leaflet that since the prosecution said Wednesday that Lindner sexually molested Lynch, her office should go after the priest to “protect your children.”

The problem with that is that the DA’s hands are entirely tied by the statute of limitations in place at the time.

The statute is the period of time proscribed by law that prosecutors have to bring charges against an alleged criminal.

In the mid-1970s, it was only six years, meaning Will Lynch would have had to report by age 13 that he had been sodomized when he was 7 and his brother was molested when he was only 4.

As this newspaper has reported, the Legislature approved longer time periods in the 1990s and 2005 for certain victims. But they don’t help the Lynches and Lindner’s many other alleged victims.

State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, has led the effort to change the law.

Under one of her bills, prosecutors have until a victim is 28 years old if the assault happened after 1999.

Under other circumstances — where there is substantial sexual misconduct and corroboration — the victim can report the crime at any age and prosecutors have a year to file as long as the abuse took place after 1987.

The irony is that Santa Clara County prosecutors have been some of the state’s leading proponents of extending the statute. The problem is, the statute can’t be changed retroactively.

SNAP supports eliminating the statute of limitations entirely, just as there is no time limit on prosecuting murder cases.

“Our current system of justice encourages predators and their co-workers and supervisors to conceal their crimes and destroy evidence in hopes of running out the clock,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director.

But defense attorneys say the current standard is a compromise that protects the innocent from false or unprovable accusations.

Among other notorious cases, they cite the McMartin preschool prosecution in Southern California, which involved dozens of kids, lasted more than six years and never resulted in a conviction.

While those in the packed courtroom waited an hour for the trial to resume this morning, a noteworthy commotion took place just outside the doors, about 9:55 a.m.

Lindner was apparently being brought in through the hallway past one of his alleged victims, Deb Lukas, who saw him and lost it.

The Jesuits paid Lukas more than $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit she filed claiming the priest molested her in the 1970s on the same camping trips the Lynches and a big group of other families went on in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

When Lukas saw her alleged rapist, a witness said she apparently blurted in a loud voice, “Look me in the eye,” then added something in a voice loud enough to be heard in the courtroom about having a right to face him.

That prompted the bailiff to run out and prevent Lukas from entering the courtroom.

Lukas happened to be with Lynch’s sister, who didn’t say anything, but was also barred from entering.

Shortly afterward, Cena came out of chambers where he’d been meeting with the lawyers for an hour and sternly warned the audience that he understands emotions are running high, but he will not tolerate “any sort of disturbance.” Anyone who disrupts the trial or interferes with any participants will not be allowed back in the courtroom.


Jerold Lindner, Priest Accused Of Abusing William Lynch, Due Back On Stand


06/21/12 02:52 PM ET

Associated Press


William Lynch

Rev. Jerold Lindner is due back on the stand after denying that he abused William Lynch, above, as a young boy. Lynch faces charges for beating Lindner at a retirement home in 2010.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A California judge has canceled trial for the day in the case of a man accused of beating a priest that he claimed molested him decades ago.

The judge dismissed the jury and lawyers on Thursday morning, moments before the priest was to take the witness stand to resume testifying for a second day.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena says he and the lawyers in the case had to discuss an undefined legal issue.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers for William Lynch declined comment. Lynch has pleaded not guilty to assaulting Lindner in 2010.

Jesuit priest Jerold Lindner denied under oath Wednesday that he sexually assaulted Lynch in the 1970s.

Prosecutors earlier said Lindner molested Lynch and they expected the priest to lie and deny it.

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.

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.


Flaccus reported from Los Angeles.

1 Response to Judge in priest beating case sends jury home for the week without explanation

  1. Sylvia says:

    The jury is dismissed until Monday morning, and lawyer are to be back in court tomorrow afternoon. No one knows why, and speculation abounds.  Here are the various possibilities presented in the article:

    (1) Defence may have filed a motion for dismissal or mistrial with the claim that Father Lindner perjured himself;

    (2) Father Lindner plans to take the Fifth and will refuse to testify on the grounds that he might incriminate himself;

    (3) Two other victims have come forward who may or may not have spoken to the prosecutor;

    (4)  Judge Cena has concurred that Father Lindner perjured himself and has decided to instruct him of his right to counsel; and

    (5) Disagreement between lawyers as to how far Will Lynch’s defence attorneys can go in their cross examination of Lindner;

    Of all the options I would hope it’s the fourth, that the judge has instructed Father Linder to retain counsel. 

    Perhaps two other victims coming forward prepared to testify would be good too, but if that’s the case it sounds as though there may be some legal irregularities  regarding contact with the prosecution which may be problematic (ref that if they’ve talked to prosecution “it may be colouring the situation.”?  )

    At the end of the day all of this is sheer speculation.  We shall just have to wait and see what happens on Monday.

    (It looks as though there are several victims of this man in attendance at the trial who are unafraid to identify themselves as such. Check the 32 pictures here on the MercruyNews.com website. )

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