PUBLISHED: 16:05 EST, 20 June 2012 | UPDATED: 20:23 EST, 20 June 2012
The jury weighing the case of a man who beat up a priest who had raped him nearly 30 years earlier saw the aftermath of the brutal assault – photos of the bloodied clergyman slumped in a chair – during opening statements.
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Vicki Gemetti began her 20-minute opening on Wednesday by displaying a blown-up image of a bruised and bloodied Rev Jerold Lindner.
Will Lynch, 44, is accused of beating the aging man in 2010 in front of witnesses at a retirement home for priests. Lindner was left bruised and in need of stitches.
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He said he attacked the man for raping him when he was seven and forcing him to perform a sex act on his own brother, who was then four, while camping in Northern California in the 1970s.
Gemetti implored jurors to focus solely on the assault, which she said Will Lynch ‘undeniably’ committed.
Lynch has been charged with felony counts of assault and elder abuse.
She said: ‘The defendant beat this man up because he was angry and he wanted revenge. The defendant planned and executed a violent attack against the man who molested him 30 years ago.’
‘Sick’: Rev. Jerold Lindner suffered bruises and required stitches after Lynch allegedly beat him up. Lynch said at least 12 people have come forward to claim they were abused by the Jesuit priest
Gemetti said the molestation was not a defense to the charges. She likened Lynch’s actions to ‘vigilante’ justice.
Lynch’s lawyer Pat Harris countered the prosecution with photos of Lynch and his younger brother, from around the time of the camping trip during his opening statement.
‘This case did not begin in 2010,’ Harris said. ‘It began on a holiday weekend in the mid-1970s.’
Harris denied that Lynch intended to assault the priest when he showed up at the retirement home.
Harris didn’t go into details during his own 20-minute opening statement, but promised the jury Lynch would testify and explain his actions.
In the video, Lynch said he felt it was his moral duty to attack the priest.
He is heard saying: ‘I’m empowered. I’m in charge of my destiny.’
Earlier Wednesday, the prosecutors looking to put Lynch away for the assault astonishingly claimed evidence shows he was molested by the man he attacked.
Lawyers representing Lindner, a Jesuit priest, said in opening statements that, although the priest abused Lynch as a child, it did not give him the right to take the law into his own hands.
Satisfied: Lynch is pictured grinning in his mugshot after the alleged attack on Lindner in 2010
Lynch said he felt let down by the justice system, which could not haul Lindner to court as the statute of limitations had expired by the time victims told police about him.
‘The defendant beat this man up because he was angry and he wanted revenge,’ she said. ‘The defendant planned and executed a violent attack against the man who molested him 30 years ago.’
Lindner is expected to take the stand in the trial – a moment Lynch previously said he was looking forward to, as the man would finally have to face public judgment for his crimes.
Lynch, who now lives in San Fransisco, is charged with felony counts of assault and elder abuse. In his mugshot following the beating, he was captured grinning.
Since his arrest, Lynch has refused to discuss a plea deal, which would have put him behind bars for a year.
Lynch, who was intent on Lindner having to testify, now risks four years in jail if convicted.
The Lynches were raped in the woods and forced to commit sex acts on each other while Lindner watched, according to a civil lawsuit and the recent interview where Lynch detailed the abuse.
Lindner has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his own sister and nieces and nephews, but was never criminally charged because the allegations were too old.
He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and said in a deposition from the late 1990s that he didn’t recall the siblings.
The brothers settled with the Jesuits of the California Province for $625,000 in 1998.
‘Victim’: Lynch (pictured left and right, centre) said he was on a camping trip with Father Jerry when he was abused with his young brother (pictured right). They received a payout from the church in 1998
The judge overseeing the case has ruled that Lynch’s lawyer can ask the priest about the allegations of sexual assault during cross-examination.
If Lindner denies the accusations, attorney Pat Harris can call up to three other witnesses who claim they were also molested by Lindner as children, including Lynch’s younger brother.
But the judge’s order only allows the defense to ask general questions about sexual abuse for the purpose of challenging Lindner’s credibility as a witness.
Getting Lindner into court – even as a victim – has helped Lynch find the peace he has sought his entire life.
‘I don’t want to go to jail but I’ve come to realize that this whole thing is really bigger than me and the way that I’ve chosen to handle this is to make a statement,’ Lynch told the AP.
Broken: In a recent interview, Lynch broke down as he explained how the horrific abuse has plagued his life
‘I’m prepared to take responsibility for anything I’ve been involved in. I’m willing to do it. I think it’s a small sacrifice to get Father Jerry into court.’
Lynch, who suffered years of alcoholism and attempted to commit suicide following the abuse, said he feels he will be comforted by the trial, whatever the outcome.
‘He still comes into my dreams now. He just took ownership of me in a way that’s hard to get rid of and I have to learn how to live with him,’ Lynch said of the priest.
‘My expectations are realistic, but I’m also coming into this for the first time sort of in control of my life.’
Police connected Lynch to the May 2010 attack using phone records.
Half an hour before the beating, a man named ‘Eric’ called the home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Lindner of a family member’s death.
Putting up a fight: Lynch refused to take a plea deal as he wanted to bring Lindner to court
Once there, Lynch asked the 65-year-old priest if he recognized him. After the priest said he did not, Lynch began punching him, according to a police account.
On a 911 tape, the assailant can be heard yelling, ‘Turn yourself in or I’ll (expletive) come back and kill you,’ as a receptionist speaks to a dispatcher.
Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital and has since recovered.
Lindner was named in two other lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Those cases were included in the record $660 million settlement between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.
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