Remaining charge dropped in priest assault case

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The Sacramento Bee

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2012 – 3:48 pm

Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2012 – 5:09 pm

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Prosecutors said Wednesday they were dropping what remained of their case against a California man who was acquitted of beating up a priest he claims molested him decades ago.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen said his office wouldn’t seek another trial for William Lynch after a jury acquitted the San Francisco man last week of felony assault and felony elder abuse.

Lynch was charged after a fight with Jerold Lindner, a retired Jesuit priest. Lynch testified that Lindner molested him in 1975.

The jury deadlocked 8-4 to convict Lynch of a misdemeanor assault count, and he could have faced a year in jail if convicted of that charge at a retrial.

“We have heard the jury,” Rosen said of his decision to forgo another trial. “We believe it is unlikely that a new jury would render a substantially different decision.”

Lynch’s attorneys Pat Harris and Paul Mones said they were grateful that no further legal action would be pursued by prosecutors.

“We believe it is the correct decision and allows him to move on with his life,” they said in a prepared statement.

Jurors acquitted Lynch after he tearfully testified about an alleged encounter he had as a 7-year-old with the priest in a tent on a camping trip 37 years ago.

Lynch said he only wanted Lindner to sign a confession when he confronted the priest at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center on May 10, 2010.

Lynch said an irrational fear gripped him after the priest “leered” at him in the same way he looked at him in 1975. Lynch admitted punching Lindner several times.

Rosen said his office pursued the initial case to hold Lynch responsible for his violent, criminal actions. However, Lynch’s comments after the July 5 verdict expressing regret for resorting to violence showed he “seems to have taken responsibility himself,” the prosecutor said.

Rosen also said his office is deciding whether to charge the priest with perjury after Lindner denied under oath that he molested Lynch. Lindner then refused to testify any further, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The Catholic Church previously paid $650,000 to settle a lawsuit Lynch filed accusing Lindner of sexual abuse.

“The DA’s Office is currently evaluating the obstacles to filing a perjury charge against Lindner,” Rosen said in a prepared statement. He didn’t elaborate on the obstacles.

Lindner’s attorney Joe Wall didn’t return email and phone inquiries.

Lawyers for Lynch said they would cooperate if Lindner is prosecuted

“We look forward to working with the D.A.’s office in the future in providing any cooperation if they choose to pursue Father Lindner,” according to the statement by the lawyers.

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