Arrest in revenge beating of priest

October 29, 2010 2:58:05 PM PDT
A man who says he was molested three decades ago by a Jesuit priest was arrested Friday on charges that he tracked down the retired cleric in his retirement home and severely beat him.

Will Lynch, 44, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and was to be released on $25,000 bail after his lawyer negotiated his surrender with authorities in Santa Clara County, defense attorney Pat Harris told The Associated Press.

Lynch has harbored a fantasy for years of confronting the priest, who also allegedly molested his little brother.

Harris said the Rev. Jerold Lindner, a 65-year-old Jesuit priest, was attacked in March or April at the Jesuits' Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos, but police didn't zero in on Lynch until earlier this month.

The priest's condition or whereabouts weren't immediately known. He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and has not been criminally charged. The abuse falls outside the statute of limitations.

Harris said Lynch will plead not guilty when he is arraigned sometime in the next month. He is accused of finding Lindner in his room at the rest home and pummeling him with his fists.

"They're saying he took him into a room and basically beat the hell out of him. They're saying it was pretty close to beating him to death," Harris said of his client. "They're essentially saying that he waited all these years and then took out his revenge. It's sort of the ultimate revenge story."

Lynch and his younger brother settled with the Jesuits of the California Province, a Roman Catholic religious order, for $625,000 in 1998 after alleging that Lindner abused them in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The boys, who were 7 and 5 at the time, were raped in the woods and then forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched, Harris said. Lindner has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his own sister and nieces and nephews, both before and after he was ordained.

Lindner was removed from ministry and placed at the Los Gatos retirement home in 2001. He was named in two additional lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The cases were included in the record-breaking $660 million settlement struck between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.

Lindner did not immediately return a call left on his answering machine Friday. A message at the Jesuits' provincial headquarters in Los Gatos said the offices were closed until Monday, and no one immediately returned a message.

Lynch declined an interview Friday but in a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, he said he'd had nightmares for years, battled depression and alcoholism and had attempted suicide twice because of the priest's abuse.

"Many times I thought of driving down to LA and confronting Father Jerry. I wanted to exorcise all of the rage and anger and bitterness he put into me," Lynch told the newspaper. "You can't put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life."

The Associated Press does not identify victims of sex crimes as a matter of policy, but Lunch has come forward publicly to tell his story.

Detective Sgt. Ryan Elder, the officer overseeing the investigation, did not immediately return a call Friday.

Although rare, it's not unheard of for victims of sexual abuse to take revenge upon their abusers - and it can be normal and even helpful for victims to fantasize about revenge without acting on it, said Steven Danish, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University who's counseled sexual abuse victims.

In Lynch's case, reading about Lindner in media accounts throughout the years and realizing he had gone unpunished could have pushed Lynch from fantasizing about a confrontation to acting on it, said Danish, who has not treated Lynch.

"Imagine holding something inside for 35 years and letting it fester. I would expect ... he almost got reinfected by reading about it," Danish said. "He's probably thinking, 'You're living your life and here I am a failure and all because of what you did to me on that day."'

There have been several other instances of violence, sometimes fatal, against priests accused of abuse since the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal unfolded in 2002.

In Baltimore, a man who claimed he was sodomized and fondled by a priest a decade before shot the clergyman three times after the priest told him to go away when he confronted him and demanded an apology.

The defendant was acquitted of attempted murder but convicted on gun charges and served 18 months of home detention.

The following year, priest John Geoghan was strangled to death in his cell by a fellow inmate who claimed he was chosen by God to kill pedophiles. Geoghan was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for groping a boy and was at the center of the Boston clergy abuse scandal. He had been accused of molesting as many as 150 boys.

In the current case, the attorney who represented the Lynch brothers in their settlement said the boys' allegations were shocking but credible.

"I became aware of other cases involving Lindner, so my experience with these cases has been that these things don't happen in isolation," said Michael Meadows, the attorney. "Lindner fit the pattern."

Meadows said he received several "frantic calls" from Lynch earlier this month, but declined to say more.

Lindner was ordained in 1976 and taught at various Catholic high schools during his career, including 16 years as chairman of the English department at Loyola High School, a prestigious Catholic prep school in Los Angeles.

There, he launched nearly two dozen after-school programs for students, including a chess club and renaissance club, and became master of a Boy Scout troop that included mostly lower-income Puerto Rican boys, his older brother, Larry Lindner, told The Associated Press.

Most of Lindner's family severed contact with him years ago after discovering that he had molested his nieces and nephews during family visits when they were as young as 3. They were unaware he had recently been attacked, said his sister, Kathy McEntire.

McEntire said her brother molested her starting when she was 5 - and she learned 15 years ago that he also abused her son for years. She last spoke to her brother in 2001. "Jerry's violent and I would not be surprised if he did get beat up. I could understand somebody getting that mad," McEntire told the AP. "I've often said myself that I don't trust myself around him. I would likely wind up in jail because I'd probably kick him somewhere where the sun doesn't shine - and I'm his sister."

During their last visit nine years ago, McEntire asked Lindner if any of the abuse allegations were true.

"I said, 'Is it true? He said, 'Well, some of it,"' McEntire said. "I called him a few choice words and that was the last time I ever saw him."

Larry Lindler, a retired Los Angeles police officer, said he last saw his brother more than two decades ago after he walked in on him molesting his 8-year-old daughter during a visit. The two were playing a game called "blankie" in which Lindner asked the little girl to lie over his lap like a blanket and then wiggled around as if trying to get comfortable.

"The last contact I had with him personally was the day after I caught him with my daughter and I told him he best get in his vehicle and leave," he recalled. "I said, 'If I go out to the truck and get my off-duty weapon out of the glove box, you're a dead man."

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Flaccus reported from Tustin, Calif. Associated Press Writer Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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