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Man who attacked priest for revenge is found not guilty

July 5, 2012 |  4:33 pm

Will Lynch leaves the courthouse during a break Thursday; he was later found not guilty of assault and elder abuse

A San Francisco man who admitted to beating a priest he said had raped him and his brother more than three decades ago was found not guilty of felony assault and elder abuse Thursday in a verdict that even he could not imagine.

The 10-man, two-woman jury also found Will Lynch not guilty of misdemeanor elder abuse in the 2010 attack on Father Jerold Lindner, who has been accused of molestation by more than a dozen victims, including his nieces, nephew and sister.

The panel was hung on a final count of misdemeanor assault, with eight jurors voting that Lynch was guilty. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena declared a mistrial on that count. Dist. Atty. Jeffrey Rosen said that his department would decide soon whether to retry Lynch.

"I thought I was going to jail," Lynch told reporters after leaving the courthouse. "I was really happy and surprised.... We brought Father Lindner into the light."

With his lawyers at his side and his family members and supporters filling the courthouse plaza, Lynch encouraged victims of child sexual abuse to come forward and tell their stories. But he cautioned them not to do what he did.

"I was perpetuating the cycle of violence" in attacking Lindner in the parlor of his Jesuit retirement home, Lynch said.

Rosen said that his department "understands Mr. Lynch's desire for revenge," but that "justice takes place in the courthouse behind me -- in a courtroom of law with jurors and prosecutors and judges and rules of evidence. A just punishment is delivered through our justice system, not through the acts of one traumatized and troubled man."

Lynch's attorneys, however, begged to differ. To Pat Harris and Paul Mones, the jury's verdict was the justice Lynch deserved after being abused during a Catholic family camp-out in 1974.

"I don't know how many people have the courage to do what Will Lynch did," Harris said after the verdict. "He told the truth. They found him not guilty."


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-- Maria L. La Ganga in San Jose

Photo: William Lynch leaves the courthouse during a break from jury deliberation Thursday. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press