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Priest invokes 5th Amendment during testimony in assault case

June 25, 2012 |  8:52 pm

William Lynch arrives at courtThe testimony of a 67-year-old retired Catholic priest allegedly beaten by a man who has accused him of molestation was tossed out Monday by a Santa Clara County judge.

Judge David A. Cena made the decision after Father Jerold Lindner had given 40 minutes of testimony, then invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer additional questions, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

William Lynch, 45, is accused of tracking down Lindner in May 2010 and assaulting him at his Jesuit retirement home in Los Gatos. Lynch was charged with felony assault and elder abuse, and he faces up to four years in prison.

He turned down a plea agreement, telling The Times, "I realized it was the only way I could get Father Lindner in court and to have an opportunity to possibly find some justice that way.”

Lynch and his younger brother sued the Society of Jesus, Lindner's order, 15 years ago, alleging that the priest had raped them and forced them to have sex with each other when Lynch was 7 and his brother 4.

The case was settled for $625,000, and Lindner was removed from Loyola High School in Los Angeles, where he had been teaching. The church never informed law enforcement about the allegations.

More than a dozen men and women have accused Lindner of molesting them through the years -- including his sister, nieces and nephew. The Catholic Church has settled three cases brought against him, a Jesuit spokesman said. But Lindner has never faced charges because the statute of limitations for the alleged abuse had run out.

Witnesses testified during the preliminary hearing that Lynch had punched and kicked the elderly priest, yelling: "You ruined my life. Turn yourself in. You molested me."

During the trial, which began June 20, Lindner denied molesting Lynch and his brother.

According to the Mercury News, the trial will continue despite the protests of Lynch's attorneys, who sought a mistrial because the defense would have no opportunity to cross-examine Lindner.

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-- Maria L. La Ganga in San Francisco and Corina Knoll

Photo: William Lynch, left, arrives at court Monday with attorney Pat Harris. Credit: Associated Press

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