William Lynch was found not guilty of felony assault and elder abuse after beating the Catholic priest he claims molested him 40 years ago. Lynch, 45, had lied his way into the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center and then viciously beat retired Father Jerry Lindner, who had been living there. Lindner had been linked to more than a dozen sexual assaults on children, including his own nieces, nephew and sister, but the statute of limitations on every case had expired. In this case, much of the two-week trial focused on what happened in 1974, when during a Catholic family camping trip, Lindner lured Lynch and his younger brother, then 7 and 4, into his tent. Lindner was accused of raping the boys and forcing them to orally copulate each other while he watched.
Lynch was charged with felony assault and felony elder abuse. He was found not guilty of both. However, when a person is found not guilty of a “greater” charge, then the prosecution can ask the jury to consider whether a person is guilty of a “lessor included” charge. In this case, the jury also found Lynch not guilty of misdemeanor elder abuse the jury was split on misdemeanor assault. Since it was a hung jury on a misdemeanor assault, the prosecution has the option of prosecuting Lynch again for misdemeanor assault only.
A pivotal point in the trial is when Lindner was asked questions about the prior sexual assault and he refused to testify to some questions on the grounds that he might incriminate myself. A witness is not allowed to pick and choose the questions they want to answer. Either they refuse to answer all the questions on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves (also known as “taking the fifth”) or they agree to answer all the questions. So when a witness refuses to answer some questions, then the penalty is that their entire testimony is thrown out. That’s exactly what happened here. Judge Cena ordered that all of Lindner’s prior testimony be excluded, including his description of the beating. Once Lindner’s own description of the beating was excluded, the jurors didn’t have much to go on in terms of evidence against Lynch.
MY OPINION: Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen stated that he did not condone Lynch’s behavior (obviously — since his office prosecuted Lynch) and that “A just punishment is delivered through our justice system.” Unfortunately, since the justice system clearly failed Lynch, his brother and a slew of other victims of sexual assault, I think the jury reached the right decision in ensuring that “justice” was meted to those who deserved it.
On a side note — my good friend Deputy District Attorney Vicky Gemetti handled this case. She is a fantastic prosecutor and if she couldn’t get a guilty verdict against Lynch, then nobody could.
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