OUTSIDE SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Defrocked Jesuit priest Jerold Lindner denied Wednesday that he raped and sodomized the man accused of assaulting him in May of 2010.
Lindner's denial caused defendant William Lynch's attorney, Paul Harris, to threaten to file perjury charges against the 67-year-old ex-priest.
Lindner took the witness stand on the first day of Lynch's trial and was questioned by prosecutor Vicki Gemetti about the assault on the afternoon of May 10, 2010 at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos.
"Did you molest the defendant and his brother?" Gemetti asked during the high-profile case in Department 34 of the San Jose Hall of Justice. Lindner answered: "No." The testimony came after Gemetti asked Lindner what Lynch told him when they met in a parlor at the center.
The gray-haired mustached and spectacled Lindner, wearing a light blue shirt and khaki pants, said he remembered Lynch asking him in a "strident" tone if he recognized him.
After answering in the negative, he said Lynch walked up to him, told him to remove his glasses and then hit him on the left side of his head with his fist.
"It was a very vicious blow. It was a major impact. I was stunned," Lindner said. "I was shocked and surprised ... it hurt."
He said he tried to block the blows and started yelling and calling for help. He said he was hit in his right wrist as he was trying to protect himself and was also hit on his left eye and in "numerous places."
Lindner said Lynch identified himself by another name.
Lindner has lived at the center since August 2002 and stopped ministering and celebrating Mass in 1997 due to accusations of sexual abuse from Lynch and his brother.
Also taking the stand Wednesday was retired center receptionist Carol Santos, who testified Lynch visited the center and said he wanted to see Lindner. Santos then walked in on them after she heard Lindner's cries for help.
Santos said she opened the door and found Lynch beating up Lindner. She called 911.
Harris has told media he's not contending the assault took place between Lindner and Lynch. He said what he wants to prove is that his client's motives were not vigilantism, but frustration with a system that had failed to give him justice for what the priest had done.
"He went everywhere telling the story of what happened to him and tried to get somebody to listen ... nobody did. He was worried and desperate that this man (Lindner) was out there teaching young people probably doing the same thing to them that he did to him," Harris said.
Harris said that's the reason in the late 1990s Lynch and his brother hired an attorney and filed a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Church, reaching a $625,000 out of court settlement. The agreement, he said, required Lindner to admit to what he had done, apologize to the victims, be removed from teaching and be monitored at all times.
However, Harris said, the system let Lynch down when Lindner continued to teach. In depositions taken of Lindner in 1998 and 2005, he denied he had molested Lynch and his brother.
"His credibility is very much at play in this case," Harris said.
On Thursday, Lindner is expected to take the stand again, followed by other witnesses called by the prosecution, including those who claim Lindner sexually abused them.