DA Will Not Re-Try Will Lynch in Priest Beating Case

By Robert Salonga and Tracey Kaplan
Santa Cruz Sentinel
July 11, 2012

Will Lynch, acquitted in the beating of a priest he says raped him as a child, won't face a second trial, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

The decision by District Attorney Jeff Rosen brings to a close a case that drew national attention over its mix of the issue of clerical sex abuse and its impact on the victims.

"We have heard the jury. We believe it is unlikely that a new jury would render a substantially different decision," Rosen said in a statement.

Jurors last week cleared Lynch, 44, of felony assault and elder abuse charges and a misdemeanor elder abuse charge in a May 10, 2010, attack in Los Gatos, and split 8-4 in favor of a conviction on a misdemeanor assault charge. The split vote left room for Rosen to refile, but he faced the tough reality that four jurors refused to convict Lynch of the lesser charge even after he admitted in court that he hit the priest.

Lynch expressed relief and satisfaction at the decision.

"Wow, that's awesome," he said.

The decision not to file won't become official until a July 20 court hearing before Judge David A. Cena.

The July 5 acquittal was hailed as a triumph for victims of clergy sex abuse nationwide. Prosecutors had argued that although they believed that Rev. Jerold Lindner molested Lynch and his 4-year-old brother in the mid-1970s on a camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains, his repugnant act didn't justify Lynch's "vigilante"

attack. The beating at a Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos left the priest bruised and bloodied, with two cuts to his face and ear.

After the acquittal, Lynch was contrite about his actions.

"I was wrong for doing what I did -- in doing that I perpetuated the cycle of violence," Lynch said. "But if there is anything I want people (who have been molested) to take away from this -- it is you can come forward, you can seek justice and you can find justice in many forms."

Still, Lynch had accomplished his goal of enduring the three-week trial to shine a light on Lindner's alleged past abuses, which could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. He said he hoped his case would bolster a movement to repeal such limitations on sex crimes against children.

"We have heard Mr. Lynch," Rosen said. "His story of abuse is powerful. We hope it lends strength to our ongoing efforts to ease the statutes of limitations on child molestation so we can bring more child molesters to justice. As public safety servants sworn to uphold justice, we worked to hold Mr. Lynch responsible for his violent criminal actions. While we were unable to do this, Mr. Lynch seems to have taken responsibility himself."

Lindner, now 67, briefly took the stand in the trial to deny abusing Lynch before invoking his right not to incriminate himself. That has become the subject of a possible perjury charge, which Rosen's office said it is exploring.

Lynch's attorney, Pat Harris, said he and his client will be watching those proceedings closely.

"Obviously, we are very pleased with their decision not to retry Will. We believe it's the right thing to do," Harris said. "We are prepared to go forward and help them in any way we can prosecute Father Lindner for perjury."


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