SAN JOSE (CBS 5 / AP) — Will Lynch is looking for justice in an unusual way. Charged with savagely beating the priest he says molested him as a child, the San Francisco man plans to try to use his trial to publicly shame the Rev. Jerold Lindner in court and call attention to clergy abuse.

Law experts say he faces an uphill battle. But priest abuse victims are cheering him on and offering to donate to his defense fund. Several dozen supporters marched and waved signs Friday outside the San Jose 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 told The Associated Press 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 the lobby of a retirement home in May 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 Friday before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome S. Nadler. Another hearing is set for next month.

Outside court, supporters marched in a circle and waved signs that read “Help Free Willy” and showed a childhood portrait of Lynch next to a photo of the priest.

Lynch accuses the 65-year-old Jesuit priest of sexually abusing him and his younger brother in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The boys, 7 and 4 at the time, were raped and forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched, Lynch said.

Lindner has repeatedly denied abusing anyone and has never been criminally charged. He hung up Wednesday when the AP called him for comment.

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 says 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 say 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 refused to discuss the beating in the AP interview last week. However, he 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 say 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.

Harris says that could allow the defense to bring the priest’s other accusers as witnesses in a trial that would portray Lynch as a sympathetic victim.

Experts say that is unlikely.

“I can understand why he might believe that this might be a good method of shedding light on what happened years ago, but it’s unlikely that at trial the evidence of the alleged abuse would be admitted,” said Rebecca Lonergan, a former federal and state prosecutor who now teaches law at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law.

“The law does not allow you to go and assault somebody who did something to you 35 years ago.”

Prosecutor Vicki Gemetti with the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.

The Rev. John McGarry, provincial for the Jesuits of the California Province, said the abuse allegations against Lindner had already been aired publicly.

“The allegations against Rev. Lindner are well-documented and the issue the judge is dealing with now is the assault that took place on our property,” McGarry said.

In a federal lawsuit alleging negligence and vicarious liability by the Vatican, Lynch said that in May 1975 Lindner raped and tortured the brothers and forced them to have oral sex with each other while he watched during a camping trip at Portola Redwoods State Park. The suit was filed Oct. 27, two days before Lynch turned himself into the authorities for the alleged beating.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office investigated Lindner eight years ago for allegedly molesting his brother’s children years before. But those allegations fell outside the statute of limitations, said William Hodgman, a deputy district attorney, and the probe was dropped when other possible victims refused to cooperate.

Lindner’s younger sister and several nieces and nephews have accused Lindner of abuse, as have several women whose families were friendly with him when they were children. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles also settled two cases involving Lindner in its record-breaking $660 million payout in 2007.

Harris said he believes jurors will hear some of the sex allegations at Lynch’s trial.

“I will tell you 100 percent we will get in the story of what happened to Will and his brother and I also believe we’ll get in the evidence of abuse of others,” Harris said.

In the meantime, Harris said he has received hundreds of inquiries from clergy sex abuse victims who want to contribute to a legal defense fund, and he is working on setting up a fund and establishing a website for Lynch’s case.

Lynch’s mother, Peggy Lynch, was one of those gathered to support her son.

“I certainly hope our son is not punished too strongly for this. We hope this is speaking to the church, because this man ruined the lives of not just the victims, but the families,” she said, choking up. “I hope everyone sees these signs and takes them to heart.”

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (11)
  1. Rich says:

    This guy Will Lynch may or may not have been abused, but he is a psychopath and misogynist as several of his acquaintances in San Francisco can testify. He constantly started physical fights with people for no apparent reason. Maybe the roots of his animal behavior are rooted in this abuse.

  2. Jamal says:

    The catholic church is nothing more than a playground for pedophile priests. They have been in denial for years and will never come clean until the vatican files for bankruptcy.

  3. Matthew Mascovich says:

    The Catholic church is a hypocritical and fraudulent business; it is NOT a religious organization. The church granted my father an annulment after 31 years of marriage and having 6 kids with my mother so he could marry again in the church. He probably paid them a hefty sum. But that hypocrisy pales in comparison to the scurge of pedophilia that the church protects in its ranks. This vermin Lindner is lucky one of my kids wasn’t one of his victims; because I would have torn him to shreds and fed him his remains to sewer rats.

  4. Helena says:

    What I feel sad about is the failure of the Church leadership: How could they spend faith donation money to settle for things that went directly against God’s principles!!! I also applaud for Will Lynch’s courage of daring to be heard publicly.It’s odd that Priest Lindner gets walk freely and Will Lynch is in jail! I hope more people will be strong enough to speak the truth and initiate the change much needed in church organizations and legal systems!

  5. Lindie says:

    I am calling for all other abuse victims of Lindner to claim that they did the beating of Lindner. Lynch started this and you can help finish it. With all of those Lindner abused including the 10 that have already come forward then maybe the government and the church will take notice and do something to protect our children.

    Our society that has dehumanized a fetus has also extended that dehumanization to apply to children. Wake up people! All life is sacred and until that time when people finally figure this out, abuse of children will continue.

  6. Beth says:

    I am not excusing the Church, but… Why does everyone blame THEM for child molestation. There are plenty of other groups out there – Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Doctors, Teachers, Coaches, Neighbors, Friends… the list goes on and on.

    The Church DID NOT invent child molesting… MEN did. The crime does not belong to just one group. It belongs to MEN! It’s like there is a bandwagon to attack the church, and people just blindly jump on it without knowing or acknowledging the truth.

    Or maybe it’s because it takes the target off their own back.

  7. Ulysees says:

    If Lynch was ‘forced’ to have oral sex with his brother-how could that BE?!
    If he was molested, that is more believeable.
    How could ANYONE be forced to do something like that?
    If he wants to bring anything good out of this, he should try to be a good person who doesnt abuse anyone , like he says he was.
    This is not a Vatican or Pope problem-its an individual bishop problem , where some bishops NEVER told the Vatican about these crimes-liike the pervert who abused deaf kids in Wisconsin, whose crimes were never revealed to Vatican sources for almost 40 years.
    Since Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope B) and JPII have been in their respective offices for the last 25 years, there have been virtually NO NEW CASES of abuse-that’s a better record than the Public Schools system, or any other institution, religous or secular.
    As one abuse victim said, “The pope should not be blamed for what happened to us.”
    Wow!
    That never got on the news, did it?

  8. James says:

    There are no “winners” in this mess!

  9. Helena says:

    I don’t think the church leadership was responsible for this priest’s wrong doing but the church leadership was responsible for a few things at least:
    1. Not taking Lindner to the hands of law when the initial allegations and investigations indicated Lindner was guilty.
    2. For not fostering an environment that encourages people to come forward with their troubles in life such as being abused.
    3. For not doing a good job of selecting and monitoring individual priest’s behavior.

    A corporation or school would have most likely fired a teacher or manager who was confirmed to be guilty of sexual abuse. Why not a church? Further more, a Church is a sacred place for people gathering to whorship God and sharing godly love, so it should have zero tolerance to sinful behaviors such as sexual abuse.

  10. WorkingWithKnives says:

    This guy in completely off the bone. Just sayin’.

  11. Steve says:

    Listen to the first commenter — Lynch is a total psychopath. As many former roommates can attest, he is a liar, thief, user and abuser. I too was abused as a child by the church yet I still am able to take responsibility for my actions as an adult. Lynch was paid a very large sum of money (at the time) and accepting any settlement absolves the church on an individual basis. Lynch has issues, but blaming abuse as a child in no way relieves him of any and everything wrong he commits to others. At some point he needs to take responsibilty for his actions. Nothing was solved by beating up a 65 year old man. Lynch can now however use this as his scapegoat once again. As someone Lynch stole from, I think anyone who contributes to his legal fund should take a moment to actually meet the real “man” Lynch first and I can guarantee they’ll have second thoughts. I. Hope he rots in jail for a very long time.