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A U.S. man was abused by a priest as a child, but that doesn't mean he can beat the aging priest decades later, prosecutors said Wednesday as the trial of William Lynch began.
Lynch, 44, is accused of beating the Rev. Jerold Lindner in 2010 in front of startled witnesses at a retirement home for priests. On the tape of an emergency call, the assailant can be heard yelling, “Turn yourself in or I'll (expletive) come back and kill you.” Lindner has since recovered.
Lynch has said Lindner abused him and his brother during a camping trip in California. The brothers, 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 them. The brothers settled with the Jesuits of the California Province for $625 000 in 1998.
Lynch is charged with felony counts of assault and elder abuse. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Prosecutors began Wednesday by displaying a blown-up photograph of a bruised and bloodied Lindner slumped in a chair. They implored jurors to focus solely on the assault.
“The defendant beat this man up because he was angry and he wanted revenge,” said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Vicki Gemetti. “The defendant planned and executed a violent attack against the man who molested him 30 years ago.”
The judge recently ruled that Lynch's lawyer can ask the priest about Lynch's allegations. If Lindner denies them, the lawyer can call up to three other witnesses who claim they were molested by Lindner as children, including Lynch's younger brother.
Getting Lindner into court - even as a victim - has helped Lynch find peace of mind, 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.”
Jurors will have to be reminded not to be swayed by their prejudices or by any sympathy they may feel for Lynch.
“These are some of the toughest cases in criminal law,” said Jody Armour, a professor at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law who specializes in criminal law and social justice issues. “Even though that jury will be told, 'Don't think about this, this is not evidence, it just goes to credibility,' how are people going to keep those two things separate in their mind?”
There have been several other instances of violence, sometimes fatal, against priests accused of abuse since the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal unfolded in 2002.
In Baltimore, a man who claimed he was sodomized and fondled by a priest a decade earlier shot him three times in 2002 after the priest told him to go away when he demanded an apology. The defendant was acquitted of attempted murder but served 18 months of home detention on a gun conviction.
The following year, priest John Geoghan was strangled in his cell by a fellow inmate who claimed he was chosen by God to kill pedophiles. Geoghan was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for groping a boy. He had been accused of molesting as many as 150.
Lindner was removed from ministry and placed at the 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. - Sapa-AP