Priest Abuse-Assault Case Isn’t Over Yet

The verdict is in for the William Lynch Trial, and unsurprisingly it was “not guilty” on all felony counts. The jury did hang 8-4 for “guilty” on a misdemeanor battery charge, but Mr. Lynch was never charged with the misdemeanor count by the District Attorney—it was added by Judge David Cena as a “lesser included offense,” which allows the jury to find him guilty of a less serious offense if the court believes there is evidence to support such an instruction.

The difference between felony and misdemeanor battery is the severity of the injury inflicted on the victim. Felony battery requires a showing of force that would have inflicted great bodily harm, whereas misdemeanor battery is merely “touching” done without consent in a rude or insolent manner.

The not guilty verdict was not a surprise to most experienced attorneys. As one juror noted, it is tough to find someone guilty of a crime when the court tells you that you cannot rely on the testimony of the victim. Indeed, many felt that the defense was crazy to move for mistrial after Father Jerold Lindner’s testimony was stricken by Judge Cena, after the priest invoked his Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent. Once the priest’s testimony was out, the allegations of sexual abuse were no longer relevant evidence, because the Judge had ruled it was admissible only to impeach Father Lindner’s credibility.

Thus, it was the best of all possible worlds for the defense: The prosecution’s key witness was totally discredited before the jury. Meanwhile, the videotape of Mr. Lynch’s moving description of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Lindner—the man he was charged with assaulting—had already been played to the jury in opening statements. Had the case been a mistrial, Father Lindner would not have testified at the retrial and the allegations of abuse would not have been admissible by the defense. Although, the prosecution might have put forward some evidence of abuse in order to prove Mr. Lynch’s motive for assaulting the priest.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Lynch probably would have been acquitted of all charges had he not voluntarily taken the stand. The prosecution was barely able to prove Mr. Lynch was in the room, much less how the priest came to suffer his injuries. It was clear to the jury that everyone, including the prosecutor, believed that Father Lindner molested Mr. Lynch. The sympathies of the jury were clearly with the defendant and against the alleged victim. This makes the burden of proof for the prosecution—proof beyond a reasonable doubt—an almost impossible obstacle to overcome when there is no first-hand account of how the assault occurred. A jury sympathetic to the defendant will look for any excuse to acquit, and not having a clear account as to how the assault occurred gives each juror an obvious excuse for a not guilty verdict.

However, when Mr. Lynch took the stand and told the jury that he was the one who went to the retirement home, that he got into Father Lindner’s room by lying about the death of his brother and it was he who grabbed the priest first, the uncertainty the jurors could have used to acquit him was eliminated. No matter how sympathetic a jury is towards a defendant, Mr. Lynch’s testimony could not be disregarded.

What appears to have happened is that the jury did not find Father Lynch’s injuries to be serious enough to justify the felony charge; something that was a problem for the prosecutor from day one. But two-thirds of the jurors believed that there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Lynch in fact attacked Father Lindner, and that evidence most assuredly came from Mr. Lynch’s own mouth.

The decision to testify is always up to the defendant. Mr. Lynch’s defense attorneys are very adept, and they certainly knew that the defense had nothing to gain by Mr. Lynch testifying. Indeed, had Mr. Lynch remained silent, it would have looked to the jury that the case was so weak that the defense did not even believe it merited a response. Mr. Lynch’s decision to testify could not have been part of any defense strategy since it substantially increased the likelihood that he would be convicted. But winning the case was obviously not Mr. Lynch’s goal.

He wanted to confront Father Lindner in court about what he did to him. Mr. Lynch was not satisfied with the taped account of the abuse that was played to the jury in opening statements, and he wanted to tell the jury and the world, under penalty of perjury, what Father Lindner did to him, and he did so at his own peril.

The saga is not over yet. Two issues remain: Does the District Attorney decide to re-try Mr. Lynch on the misdemeanor charge that the jury hung on? And, does District Attorney Jeff Rosen‘s office file charges against Father Lindner for perjury?

As was the case with the underlying trial, these two decisions are fraught with issues and no matter which way the District Attorney goes, he will be criticized by someone. Re-trying Mr. Lynch for the misdemeanor will be unpopular and exhaust a lot of resources. But no District Attorney wants to encourage an open season on beating up alleged child molesters like Father Lindner, which is the message the jury sent to the public by its verdict.

The perjury case has another twist: Will the District Attorney’s Office even get to make the call on whether to charge it? As it turns out, Vicki Gemetti, the prosecutor, is a potential witness in Father Lindner’s perjury trial because she not only interviewed him prior to the trial—she was also the one who asked the priest questions that resulted in the alleged perjured testimony. In cases where an attorney in the District Attorney’s office may be a witness, the best practice is to usually refer the case to the Attorney General for prosecution, thereby avoiding even the appearance of bias.

Christopher Schumb is an attorney with a general practice in San Jose.

15 Comments

  1. Great insights in this and your earlier post.

    I think the Attorney General has a responsibility go after Lindner for perjury.  People have to know that lying under oath has consequences.

  2. Mr. Schumb:

    Father Lindner will not cooperate with the prosecution anymore. I don’t see how they could even have a misdemeanor trial if the “victim” refuses to testify.

  3. The San Francisco has a very interesting take on the Lynch trial:

    http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Jury-nullification-can-highlight-the-law-s-flaws-3694716.php

    Excerpt”

    The district attorney’s office hasn’t said whether it will retry Lynch on the deadlocked charge. The author of a book on the jury practice said Monday the entire prosecution was questionable.

    “When a public jury is saying these aren’t cases that are worth trying this way, the prosecutor should be listening,” said Houston attorney Clay Conrad, who wrote “Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine” in 1998.

  4. Pretty clear case of jury nullification.  Despite evidence presented for conviction, the jury sympathies for the defendant were over-riding factors in producing a guilty verdict.  Unlike lawyers, the public has a different sense of right and wrong, despite what the law may require.

    The Jury simply ignored the evidence and decided the assault was justifiable.

  5. Why did it take so long for William Lynch’s anger to manifest itself into physical confrontation and assault? Given the passage of over two decades during which Lynch, as an adult, possessed the ability to physically challenge his alleged abuser, I can’t help but wonder if the timing of Lynch’s “heat of passion” had not been stirred by the priest’s advanced age and physical infirmity. If the pressure to get revenge was indeed as overpowering as Lynch would like everyone to believe, how was he able to suppress it for the many years it took his demon priest to become aged and defenseless? Absent some evidence that Lynch had engaged in a long and frustrating search for Lindner, not locating him until 2010, it would appear that Lynch’s factually-established assault on the priest involved one of the despicable elements that made his alleged molestation as a child so heinous, that being the physical exploitation of an otherwise defenseless victim.

    The DA would be negligent to allow the jury’s decision to stand. No matter that the jury, and indeed much of the community, viewed Father Lindner as deserving of punishment even more severe than what he received, William Lynch’s calculated delivery of it was cold and cowardly, and that is something our system of justice should never excuse.

  6. To Frustrated finfan:

    Pretty clear to me that you know no one who was raped at age seven or forced to watch their brother being raped at age four.

    First of all, the priest was neither elderly nor infirm. Lindner was all of 65- younger than Jerry Sandusky was at the age of his conviction. Secondly, he was fit as a fiddle. He lives at a winery that is not technically a retirement home. This place is for priests who have been found to have molested children but because of the statute of limitations have not been convicted. It’s basically housing for pedophile priests- some of whom are in their forties.  Lindner also drives a car, and enjoys rooftop wine parties at the place where he lives.  He is by no means defenseless.

    Have you ever considered what it truly means to be defenseless- to be seven years old and raped by an adult man?

    Sounds to me that you haven’t read up on the Lynch case. Please educate yourself- he has given MANY interviews where he said his rage manifested itself in two suicide attempts and alcholism and divorce.

    Actually, for men in their forties who have been sexually abused in their children, it’s VERY NORMAL to have an outburst. 

    You may not know that more than 70 per cent of California inmates have been sexually abused as children. They “act out” by committing heinous crimes like murder and aggravated robbery. Many of them committed domestic violence.  Will Lynch never murdered or robbed anyone; his actions seem perfectly understandable in the context of what a victim of sex abuse goes through.

    I truly recommend that you read up on what victims go through. It is a lifetime of hell with no relief.

    I also know another victim of Lindner’s. This man was locked in a hotel room at age ten and then assaulted by Lindner. His life was forever ruined.

    Shame on you for your lack of compassion. Please go read up on what victims go through.

  7. Thanks for another well written and informative article. I’m thankful to the jury for freeing Will Lynch.  I hope he can find peace now.

    I’m really disappointed in Jeff Rosen’s statement after the jury’s decision was made public.  He needs to show more respect for the jury’s decision rather than say that he was ‘disappointed’ in the verdict. (It would have been better for his office to say nothing until they calmed down rather that to speak on camera right after the verdict was handed down.)

    There’s a reason why people are judged by a jury of their peers, and not by prosecutors. There’s a reason why the jury essentially and correctly chose jury nullification in this case.

    I think if Jeff Rosen goes after Will Lynch again, that he will lose public support.  I’m already disgusted at the overcharging of Will Lynch in this case, and not impressed with the conduct of the prosecutor (For example, she didn’t reveal to the defense the contents of a conversation she had with Lindner and his attorney.  His attorney revealed the conversation to the defense.)

    I think that the statute of limitations was also on trial here.  Were it not for the ridiculously short statute of limitations when Will Lynch and his brother were assaulted, Lindner would not have been beyond the reach of conviction for his heinous crimes.

    It shouldn’t just be all about aggressively winning for the DA’s office. It should be about seeing that justice is served.  It was, thanks to the jury.

  8. Honestly how do you believe this thing went down. Remember the cops are human to. What do you think happened when the first cop came to the scene and learned the victim raped and molested by the suspect in the worst way. Most men would never talk about something like this. There would likely be a day at some age where the two brothers agreed never to speak about what happened and to pretend it was a dream.  Sadly this is exactly how many young men become gay. Ask them, many will tell you stories similar or that the person who turned them had been a victim.  So now there is a report and the detective is saying what is more important the guy who got punched or this story of how this monster molested little boys. Do you really believe the cops and DA were offended and said we need justice for this priest or did they say we need to get this priest he is a monster.  My opinion is at some point there was some thought as to how to convict this molester. The only way was to give him the opportunity to tell his lie and then charge him. Keep in mind when he lies he is not protecting himself but he is lying in an attempt to victimize the victim a second time. If the priest lies denying the jury the opportunity to hear the true facts and they convicted Lynch he was denied a fair trail.  It really was the only way and the last chance to make him pay is some way.  What did the priest do he tried to victimize him victim a second time. he could have said don’t call the cops and said he did not want anything done. No he choose like the monster he is to go after the victim and deny his actions.  Rosen is doing the right thing, he allowed this to happen and to see how it played out. without this trial there is no way to go after the priest in a meaningful way. At least now his lie could have resulted in a man going to prison… !!! very different from simply saying you did not do it.

    • ddavidd, This 2002 article in the Los Angeles Times reveals that Jerold Lindner has a long history of abusing children, including member of his own family.  When his own brother, Larry Lindner, then a police officer, learned of his brother’s abuse of his own daughter, he did not file a police report!
      EXCERPT:
      “Lindner’s move to Loyola made it easier to visit his older brother, Larry, then an LAPD patrol officer who lived in Lancaster with his family. During these visits, Father Lindner allegedly molested three nieces. Larry Lindner’s youngest daughter, Tiffany Swindler, said the priest sodomized her on three occasions when she was between 5 and 7.
      “He was meaner the second time,” said Swindler, now 27. “He yelled a lot. He grabbed my hair harder than normal.” Afterward, she said, Father Lindner called her “dirty” and told her: “Bad things happen to little girls who open their mouths.”
      Swindler and her father said that the priest molested the girl for the final time around Easter 1984. In separate interviews, they said Larry Lindner walked into the living room to find the priest playing with Tiffany while sexually aroused.
      “I threw him out of my house,” Larry Lindner said. He urged his brother to seek treatment but did not report him to authorities.
      “I trusted him,” Larry Lindner said. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to ruin your life or ruin your career. Just go get help.’ … I should have had him arrested right there. But he’s still my brother, and I did what I thought a brother should do.”
      Larry Lindner retired from the LAPD in 1986, and the family moved to Oregon. In January 1992, his wife found Tiffany crying on the floor of their home after suffering flashbacks about the priest.
      Larry Lindner said his daughter’s anguish made him so angry that he called Jesuit superiors to report his brother’s history of alleged sexual misconduct. Loyola’s then-principal, Father Eugene Growney, posted a memo on Feb. 3, 1992, informing the high school faculty and staff that Jerold Lindner had been placed on leave “for reasons internal to the Society of Jesus.”
      GOOGLE the Article: L.A. Priest Blamed for Legacy of PainTen, Including Relatives, Say the Jesuit Molested Them. He Denies It and Has Not Been Charged
      By Glenn F. Bunting / December 14, 2002

  9. Mercyneal,

    You say the priest was neither elderly nor infirm, yet the law, in recognition of the physical decline that accompanies aging, qualified him for special protection as an elderly person. Absent contradictory evidence—of which you provided none, I assume the norm for victim Lindner.

    Your argument in support of Lynch’s right to beat up an old man is an emotional one; understandable, but emotional. Were I to adopt your perspective, Mr. Lynch, as a victim suffering the effects of a horrid crime, would be legally excused should he beat up the old man again tomorrow, and the next day, and every day until the day comes when the old guy drops dead from just the thought of another serving of his just deserts.

    I have no problem with revenge and no sympathy for its deserving targets, but if someone decides to challenge our legal system by committing a blatant act of revenge, then the legal system is obligated to rise to the occasion and prosecute the offender. The law can grant no one, no matter how victimized, a license to avenge at will.

  10. Sorry, sir, 65 is not “an old man.” Jerry Sandusky is 68 years old.

    If the law “can grant no one, no matter how victimized, a license to avenge at will,” then how on earth do you explain the refusal of a Texas grand jury to charge a man who killed a man who was molesting his daughter with murder? They refused to charge him AT ALL.

  11. Yes, it IS over!! Just announced that the DA will NOT be refiling misdemeanor charges against Lynch.

    Congratulations to Lynch and his very supportive family. I hope he spends the rest of his life working to help other victims with his new organization.

  12. Rosen wets his finger and checks the wind before making any kind of stand. It just so happened that the catholic church was bellowing the hardest when it came to decide to prosecute Lynch. Rosen is fooling no one with his patronizing considerations about retrying Lynch. He’s just trying to placate everyone, like a true spineless politician.

  13. The overzealous prosecution of Will lynch was placed in check and overruled by the jurors who rightly regarded the real victim in these proceedings.Jury Nullification is a legal provision and the jury opted to exercise it in this case!
    The jury has rendered a just and equitable verdict. The law has been (and continues to be) conspicuously overlooked in the case of Jerold Lindner, while in the case of Will Lynch it was egregiously misapplied. The jury has rectified these gross and glaring inequities. Their decision has vindicated him, along with the other victims of Jerold Lindner that he represented by proxy who were denied justice as well. Their verdict has sent a clear and unambiguous message that those who wear clerical collars are not above the law.  I call that “poetic justice”. Poetic justice defined: n fitting retribution; just deserts.
    Thanks to the jury members and congratulations to Mr. Lynch’s attorneys for their superlative defense of Mr. Lynch. The outcome of the trial that left the prosecution both dumbfounded and confounded and saw Will Lynch emerge victorious was both remarkable and miraculous. This was unquestionably an extraordinary instance of divine intervention and divine retribution. THANKS be to GOD for prayers answered!

    In solidarity with the victims of Roman Catholic clergy abuse & those who advocate for them,

    JuneAnnette

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