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Man charged in beating of priest welcomes case’s attention

Attacker says the cleric abused him

MOUNTING AN UNUSUAL DEFENSE “I think there’s an opportunity here with this media attention that I can . . . help people seek justice.” Will Lynch said. MOUNTING AN UNUSUAL DEFENSE
“I think there’s an opportunity here with this media attention that I can . . . help people seek justice.” Will Lynch said.
By Gillian Flaccus and Terence Chea
Associated Press / November 13, 2010

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Will Lynch is looking for justice in an unusual way. Charged with savagely beating the priest he said molested him as a child, he plans to try to use his trial to publicly shame the Rev. Jerold Lindner in court and call attention to clergy abuse.

Law experts said he faces an uphill battle. But victims of priest abuse are cheering him on and offering to donate to his defense fund. Several dozen supporters marched and waved signs yesterday outside the Northern California courthouse where he was arraigned on an assault charge.

“Somebody needs to be a face for this abuse, and I’m prepared to put myself on the line,’’ Lynch said in the first interview since his arrest last month. “There’s nothing they can take from me that they haven’t already taken.’’

Lynch is accused of luring Lindner to a retirement home and beating him bloody in front of horrified witnesses.

The 43-year-old has said he will plead not guilty, but he did not enter a plea during a brief hearing yesterday. Another hearing is set for next month.

Lynch accuses the 65-year-old Jesuit priest of sexually abusing him and his younger brother in 1975 during camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The boys were 7 and 4 at the time.

Lindner has repeatedly denied abusing anyone and has never been criminally charged.

In a deposition in the late 1990s, Lindner said he didn’t recall Lynch or his brother, though the siblings received $625,000 in a 1998 confidential settlement with the Jesuits for alleged abuse by the priest.

Lynch said memories of the priest have tormented him for years, and he struggled through alcohol abuse, depression, nightmares, and divorce. He tried to commit suicide twice and told the Los Angeles Times in 2002 that he often thought about confronting Lindner.

Authorities said Lynch acted on that fantasy when he attacked the priest on May 10 after the cleric failed to recognize him at the Jesuits’ Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos. Lindner has recovered from the attack.

Lynch last week said he hopes to use his case to bring attention to Lindner’s alleged abuse, as well as to heighten awareness of clergy sex abuse, and encourage other victims to come forward.

“He took my faith, he took my innocence, he took my sense of self,’’ Lynch said of Lindner. “He raped me, he tortured me, he violated me in every single way, and he completely changed who I was supposed to be forever.’’

“I think there’s an opportunity here with this media attention that I can possibly . . . help people seek justice,’’ Lynch said.

Investigators said they have strong evidence that Lynch carried out the beating. However, defense attorney Pat Harris has countered by suggesting that the priest had many victims and enemies and that any number of people could have attacked him. At least 10 people have accused Lindner of molestation, including family members.

The Los Angeles County district attorney investigated Lindner for allegedly molesting his brother’s children years before. But those allegations fell outside the statute of limitations, said a deputy district attorney.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles also settled two cases involving Lindner in its record-breaking $660 million payout in 2007.

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