Judge tosses priest’s testimony in assault case

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The San Francisco Chronicle

Updated 04:48 p.m., Monday, June 25, 2012

  • William Lynch arrives at a San Jose, Calif., courthouse on Monday, June 25, 2012. Santa Clara County Judge David Cena on Monday rejected motions for a mistrial in the case of Lynch, charged with assaulting a priest who he claims raped him decades ago. Lynch's attorneys had sought a mistrial, accusing prosecutor Vicki Gemetti of withholding evidence and misconduct. Photo: Paul Sakuma / APWilliam Lynch arrives at a San Jose, Calif., courthouse on Monday, June 25, 2012. Santa Clara County Judge David Cena on Monday rejected motions for a mistrial in the case of Lynch, charged with assaulting a priest who he claims raped him decades ago. Lynch’s attorneys had sought a mistrial, accusing prosecutor Vicki Gemetti of withholding evidence and misconduct. Photo: Paul Sakuma / AP

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A judge on Monday tossed out a priest’s testimony against a man charged with assaulting him after the reverend invoked his right to avoid self-incrimination as it became clear he may be accused of lying on the stand.

The man accused of attacking the priest, William Lynch, claims Father Jerold Lindner raped him and his brother decades ago. Lindner has denied the accusations.

Lynch, 44, is accused of beating Lindner in May 2010 at a Los Gatos retirement home for priests near San Jose. Lynch claims Lindner raped him in 1975 when he was 7 years old.

Lindner had already testified 40 minutes for prosecutors and faced cross-examination before deciding suddenly to stop, according to the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/KIWRz9 ).

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena allowed Lindner to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

But Cena tossed Lindner’s previous testimony after Lynch’s attorneys argued that it would be unfair to allow it to stand if they could not cross-examine the priest.

The statute of limitations has run out on the alleged molestations, but Lynch’s attorney says the priest could be charged with perjury for denying the molestations on the stand.

Prosecutors concede Lindner is lying when he denies he molested Lynch and Lynch’s then 4-year-old brother during a church camping trip, but also argue that’s no defense against assault charges. The Catholic Church earlier settled a civil lawsuit the brothers filed.

Lindner’s refusal to testify was the latest disruption in the case, coming just moments after a judge rejected defense motions for a mistrial.

The defense attorneys had said that a prosecutor committed misconduct in handling the priest’s testimony. The defense attorneys accuse the prosecutor of knowingly allowing false testimony, known as “suborning perjury.”

Prosecutors knew, based on an interview with the priest, that he would testify that he did not molest the boys, the defense argued.

The trial began Wednesday in a courtroom filled to capacity with dozens of spectators claiming to be sexual abuse victims of the Catholic Church.

Several more demonstrated outside with large signs decrying the church’s abuse scandal.

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Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com

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