SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – William Lynch testified in court Friday that he was haunted by memories of the Jesuit priest he says molested him as a child when he attacked that priest at a Los Gatos retirement home in 2010.
Lynch, 44, is on trial in San Jose for alleged assault and elder abuse in connection with that attack on Father Jerold Linder, 67.
He has pleaded not guilty, and faces up to four years in prison if convicted on all charges.
The defendant gave emotional testimony in court Friday describing how the Jesuit priest allegedly molested him when he was 7 years old along with his brother, then 4, during multi-family camping trips in Portola Redwoods State Park in 1975.
Lynch testified tearfully Friday that after raping him and forcing him to have sex with his brother, the priest told him that if he ever reported what happened, “he would kill my parents, my little brother and kill my sister and peel her skin off in front of me.”
The 44-year-old said his fear of the priest and memories of the abuse have destroyed his life, filling his nightmares and causing him to suffer depression well into adulthood.
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Lynch and his younger brother told their parents about the abuse.
Soon after, Lynch said he began calling law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices throughout the Bay Area and repeatedly heard the same response- the statute of limitations law meant the priest could not be criminally prosecuted.
In 1998, Lynch and his brother settled a civil suit against Linder and the Catholic Church for about $600,000.
But the conditions he believed would be attached to that settlement, he said, were not carried out.
One of those conditions – that Linder not be allowed to have access to children – particularly troubled him.
“He’s a predator, a sociopath…he’s capable of doing a lot of unspeakable things that could do a lot of damage to people, especially children,” Lynch said.
In the years following the civil settlement, Lynch said he underwent therapy to cope with his childhood abuse.
He also started making calls to try to locate the priest he said molested him and took trips to Los Gatos, where he knew Linder lived.
“I wanted to confront him, but I could never get the courage to do it,” he said.
“It became clear to me…I needed to talk to him,” Lynch said. “I wanted him to take responsibility for what he did to me.”
Linder told the prosecutor, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Vicki Gemetti, that on May 10, he drove from San Francisco to the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, the retirement home where Linder lived.
Earlier, he had called the center and given a receptionist there a made-up story and fake name, saying he was a friend of the priest’s and wanted to inform him of a death in the family.
When asked Friday morning by one of his attorneys, Paul Mones, if he struck the priest during that visit, Linder said, “I’m not gonna insult the jury – I did.”
Later on Friday, he told Gemetti that he put on gloves in the parking lot before entering the retirement home to see Linder.
After meeting with the priest, then 65, and telling him who he was, Lynch said Linder had the same look in his eyes as he had when he raped him as a boy.
Lynch then told the priest to take off his glasses and began punching him, he said.
He said he struggled with the priest, who he says tried to choke him, the same way he had done while molesting him in the 1970s.
Lynch said he subdued the priest and tried to force him to sit down and sign some documents he had brought with him referencing the alleged molestation.
After a receptionist came in, Lynch said, he stopped the fight, got up and left the retirement home.
Gemetti on Friday asked Lynch if he had fantasized about killing Linder and wanted to make his daydreams a reality.
“If I wanted Father Jerry dead, he’d be dead,” Lynch said. “Have I thought about killing him? Yeah – it’s just not something I would do.”
The prosecutor, who said earlier in the trial that the priest would likely lie about molesting Lynch, said Lynch went to the retirement home that day with the intention of attacking the smaller, older priest.
On Tuesday, Linder took the stand and denied the abuse, then invoked his Fifth Amendment right, refusing to continue testimony.
Judge David Cena ordered the jury to ignore the priest’s testimony and to strike it from the trial record.
On Friday afternoon, the judge rejected the defense’s request to have the priest re-testify.
The trial is set to continue Monday morning.
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