A jury has acquitted a San Francisco man accused of beating a priest at the in May 2010.
On Thursday afternoon, the panel found William Lynch, 44, not guilty
The jury hung 8-4 on a lesser misdemeanor crime of an assault on Father Jerold Lindner and it's not clear if the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office will refile charges related to that lesser offense or appeal.
Outside the San Jose Hall of Justice, Lynch said he was happy with the verdict and surprised by the outcome of the highly emotional trial.
Lynch claimed on the witness stand that Lindner had raped and sodomized both he and his brother while they were young children in the 1970's. His testimony was thrown out after defense attorneys called for a mistrial, saying the cleric had perjured himself.
"We've accomplished so much more," he said. "I wanted to bring attention to the issue of child sexual abuse. I wanted to bring Father Jerry into the light and careened the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center as the rapist resort."
Lynch said he hopes the DA's office will prosecute Lindner for perjury. According to several Lynch supporters, the Jesuit Order - where Lindner is a member - has paid out millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements to other alleged victims.
According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, more than a dozen people have accused Lindner of sexually abusing them. Lynch and his brother filed a civil lawsuit in 1998 and received a $625,000 settlement.
"After all these years and all the lives he's destroyed and the collateral damage that he's done that's been exponential ... the system [is broken] the statute of limitations is the monkey wrench in the machine," Lynch said, referring to how authorities can't prosecute sexual abuse after a certain number of years pass after an offense is committed.
Lynch said he hoped victims and supporters would come forward to push for a change to the statute of limitations issue. He also said he would start a nonprofit group to work on changing the system that would allow for the prosecution of child molesters regardless of when the offenses took place.
He also advised victims to not take matters into their own hands, as he did, when he openly admitted during his testimony he was indeed the man who had walked into the Jesuit Center in Los Gatos on May 10, 2010 and punched the priest in the head and confronted him about the abuse.
"I would do something different," he said, when asked what advice he would give other victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy. "I want to create a support system for people who find themselves in the ... gray area that I was in. It's almost as if I'm complicit in a crime because I know what's happened, I know about the cover-up and that Father Jerry is out there hurting people and that's what motivated me, but like I said ... me doing what I did is just perpetuating the cycle."
In an earlier news conference, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, accompanied by prosecutor Vicki Gemetti, said the case, although trying to find Lynch responsible for assaulting the priest, was also about bringing just punishment to sexual abuse crimes.
"This District Attorney's Office has worked tirelessly and vigorously in bringing child molesters to justice," Rosen said. "I have personally prosecuted dozens of rapists, child molesters and I understand the yearning for justice and ... punishment for those who have molested and abused children."
Rosen said that's why his office has a special unit to prosecute such crimes every year. "Because we know that sometimes child molestation victims take years to come forward and tell about the awful things that happened to them, we have also worked to adopt legislation that addressed the statute of limitations."
Rosen's chief assistant, Jay Boyarsky is working to further legislative efforts to change the statute of limitations for child molestation cases, he said.
Rosen indicated ultimately the case was about the people of Santa Clara County. "Justice takes place in the courthouse behind me. In a courtroom of law with jurors, prosecutors and judges and rules of evidence. And justice is delivered through our justice system," he said, commending Gemetti for her work in prosecuting the case and denouncing what he called were unfounded, inaccurate and untrue personal attacks on the prosecutor.
"Justice is decided by you, by the jury in our county, and while I certainly understand the feelings of those that may be happy with this particular result, for myself, while I certainly understand and respect the jury's verdict on this case, I'm disappointed," Rosen added.
The county's top prosecutor said his office filed the charges against Lynch and understood the extent of the circumstances related to the two charges. "In our office we seek justice for everyone in our community, for all victims no matter who they are," he said.
Rosen said his office would carefully review the jury's decision and he'll try to speak to some of the jurors and then decide if he will retry the misdemeanor assault offense on which the panel deadlocked.
Asked if the jury's verdict represented a loss to his office, Rosen said anytime a criminal act is investigated, as was the assault of Lynch on Lindner, it's not disappointing to either win or lose as the process represents how the criminal justice system works in the county. "I respect it and uphold it [the verdict]," he noted.
Rosen said the standard of proof in any case is the stipulation of a fact being beyond a reasonable doubt, and explained that even though some may think his office overcharged Lynch with the higher crimes, Gemetti had charged him for what he did. "Here, where we had someone who more than 35 years after a terrible thing happened ... a thing that should have never happened ... drove 50 miles, gave a fake name, beating and bloodying someone, that's not justice within the law. That's revenge," he said.
As the county's top legal watchdog, he said it was his obligation to uphold the rule of law. "That's what we did in this case. The jury's verdict is the jury's verdict is. Our responsibility in the DA's office is to provide public safety by upholding the law."