Jul 28, 2014
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Update: William Lynch Admits Striking Los Gatos Priest

The San Francisco man recounts what he said was his rape and sodomy by Father Jerold Lindner.

Update: William Lynch Admits Striking Los Gatos Priest

The man accused of beating up a priest in Los Gatos more than two years ago admitted Friday he had gone to the Jesuit center, met the cleric and struck him.

"I'm not going to insult the jury, I did," defendant William Lynch said when asked if he hit Father Jerold Lindner.

What followed was highly emotional, disturbing, and graphic testimony by Lynch, who is charged with felony assault and elder abuse of the priest. If convicted, Lynch faces up to four years in prison.

Under questioning from defense attorney Paul Mones, Lynch testified that Lindner raped and sodomized him and his younger brother when they were ages 7 and 4 while on camping trips in the mid-70s to Portola Redwoods State Park.

Lynch said the priest pitched a tent away from other families on one camping trip which Lynch's parents and two younger siblings also joined. The defendant described how Lindner inappropriately touched him, pulled him toward him, and rubbed against him. Lynch testified that he tried to fight off the priest, but Lindner pushed Lynch's head down, pulled out his penis and forced it into the boy's mouth.

"He became sort of non-human to me ... His eyes were full of hate and rage ... I couldn't breathe and I don't know if I disassociated or passed out," Lynch said.

He then remembered waking up and Lindner being on top of him, he said. "He was very angry and his face was red and he had his hands around my throat and he was strangling and pushing me ...".

"I thought he was going to kill me," Lynch said, crying and his voice quivering. "I remember feeling like I was completely alone ... and that I had ceased to exist as a person."

After he was raped and sodomized, Lynch said Lindner cleaned him up and left him to deal with the shock. He said he kept the assault secret because Lindner threatened to kill his family.

In another incident, he said Lindner called him into his tent with the threat he would hurt his brother. When Lynch entered, his brother was already there. To protect his sibling, Lynch said he put himself between Lindner and his brother. But Lynch claimed the priest made him and his brother inappropriately touch themselves and have oral sex with each other.

Lynch's emotional testimony was punctuated by silent pauses and tears streaming down his face.

Some spectators, including others who claim that Lindner abused them as children, sobbed as they listened to Lynch's testimony.

Lynch said he told his brother he thought Lindner was crazy and that they could not tell anybody or he would kill their family. "We just put that away," he said.

During his teenage and young adult years, Lynch said he didn't like how he felt. He said he experienced fear, shame and guilt. "To just be present in my body and in my consciousness was nothing but discomfort for me," he said.

For years after that, he said he found ways to numb his feelings by living recklessly; he said he didn't have any regard for his life.

"Father Jerry just broke me ... ," Lynch said, sobbing.

Lynch, 44, was born in Mountain View and graduated from Los Altos High School. He attended San Diego State University where he obtained a degree in liberal arts and holds a master's degree in international business from St. Mary's College in Moraga.

Now unemployed, Lynch also said he mainly worked in commercial real estate. His family went to a congregational church and his mother was a Baptist, but he was baptized a Catholic.

It was his father's co-worker who invited the family to the camping trips held by Lindner's Christian family group, he said.

He testified that Lindner stayed with the group through the camping trips and would say Mass on Sunday.

"Father Jerry," as he and others called the priest, was always around children, Lynch said. Lindner was well liked and trusted by the families who attended the camping trips and would tell kids stories, hold them on his lap and take them on hikes, Lynch said.

The collar-wearing priest made Lynch uncomfortable when he would pull him on his lap. He said he tried to avoid Lindner, but had a hard time getting away from him. The priest would dig his fingers into him when he would try to escape and hurt him, he testified.

Lynch said years after the alleged abuse, he was bothered that Lindner was free and worried about the priest being near children. Around 1994, when Lynch was about 27 years old, he learned his brother had told his parents about the molestation. He later confessed the same to them.

"I just didn't want to deal with the reality of it. I had been pushing it away my entire life and now it was up in my face," he said. "I was angry. All this stuff was coming up to a head."

He said his brother asked him not to do anything. But after a few years of being unable to sleep at night, Lynch tried to get criminal charges filed against the priest by contacting several law enforcement agencies. 

He said he contacted the Los Altos Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department and the Oakland Police Department because he believed the priest was a member of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland. But by then, the statute of limitations for the abuse had run out.

"No one would help me. It made me feel hurt. It made me feel invalidated. It made me feel frustrated ... because the system that failed me when I was a kid was now failing me as an adult and it just didn't make sense to me that with someone out there who was perpetrating this stuff against children that they wouldn't want to do something about it."

After law enforcement agencies were not able to help, he said and his brother filed a civil lawsuit against the Jesuit Order, receiving $625,000 in a 1998 confidential settlement.

However, he said, stipulations in the settlement to protect society from the priest were omitted.

He said the brothers wanted Lindner to apologize for what he had done. They wanted to be made aware of where the priest was at all times to protect themselves and others and they wanted the priest to stay away from children. They also wanted to have the priest defrocked but not be excommunicated so that he would remain the responsibility of the Catholic Church.

Lynch also said they wanted no gag order that would stop them from speaking about what had happened and if the church knew of others abused by Lindner, the agreement would be void and they could pursue legal action again.

Under cross-examination, prosecutor Vicki Gemetti acknowledged as she did in opening statements that the abuse did in fact take place and affected Lynch's life. "You're angry today ... you've been angry about this for a very long time," she said, to which Lynch replied, "Among other things."

Lynch said he could keep his anger in check.

"But you hate Jerry Lindner," she said. To which he responded: "Actually, I don't."

He said the confrontation with the priest on May 10, 2010 helped him deal with the pain of the abuse, made him feel empowered, gave him a voice, and brought him some peace.

"You wanted to see Jerry Lindner hurt the way you hurt?" Gemetti asked. "Yes," he answered.

Gemetti then showed Lynch a picture of the injured priest after the assault. "You did that to him, right?" she asked. "Correct," he answered, adding it didn't feel good.

She then asked if Lynch wanted to plead guilty to the charges. 

"I believe under the circumstances that I shouldn't be guilty," he said. "It's difficult to find justice in this situation with regard to the victims." 

To challenge his credibility, Gemetti questioned Lynch at length about his fruitless attempts to get law enforcement authorities to act on the abuse. The prosecutor asked why in 2002, when contacted by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy about Lindner's alleged sexual improprieties with numerous victims, he refused to help him with the investigation. Lynch said he declined because the agencies failed to help him earlier.

Defense attorneys asked Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena to subpoena Lindner to testify. However, the judge denied that request, saying the priest's testimony had been stricken and he had invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Lindner's attorney Joe Wall Jr. also objected to the subpoena on the grounds that anything his client would say could cause the DA's office to prosecute his client for perjury. The priest has denied molesting Lynch and his brother.

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