The fate of a San Francisco man accused of beating a priest at the in May 2010 will be handed this afternoon to a Santa Clara County jury whose members will decide whether he committed assault and elder abuse.
In closing arguments presented to the jury at the San Jose Hall of Justice, prosecutor Vicki Gemetti showed the jury slides explaining how in a civilized society it is the rule of law that keeps chaos away. She stressed that when individuals act outside of the law, even when having a compelling reason to do so, justice is eroded.
Then, quoting John Adams, she said: "We're a government of laws ... Vigilantism ... taking the law into your own hands, flies in the face of every basic tenet upon which our system of government is based." Gemetti alluded to defendant William Lynch's admission on the witness stand Friday that he went to the center and struck the priest who he said raped and sodomized him and his younger brother while they were on camping trips in the '70s.
Gemetti told the jury that vigilantism couldn’t be accepted in a democratic society. "In this case, justice demands that you find the defendant guilty."
Gemetti said the evidence presented to the jury during the trial, which began June 20, has proven Lynch's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that while it's natural and reasonable to think Lynch was molested and to feel sympathy for him, "You can't use that sympathy for reaching your verdict ... your verdict has to be based on the facts."
The facts, she said, are undisputed that Lynch went to the center, attacked Lindner, struck him multiple times and caused him injuries. She said the only thing that needed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt were the elements of the crimes he's charged with.
William Lynch, 44, has been If found guilty, he faces up to four years in jail.
The definition of force in the first crime, she said, is to touch someone in a harmful or offensive manner and intent or injury are not necessary to determine guilt, she said. However, she told the jury that injury in the case is a factor in deciding whether Lynch committed the assault and what type of assault he committed.
Gemetti explained that to find Lynch guilty of simple assault and simple elder abuse—lesser offenses—the jury would have to acquit him of the more serious crime of felony assault with intent to cause great bodily injury and felony elder abuse under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death.
To find Lynch guilty of elder abuse, the jury will have to decide if Gemetti was successful in proving Lynch knew when he attacked the priest that he was at least age 65.
The evidence presented to the jury included the testimony of six witnesses for the prosecution and photos showing the injuries sustained by the priest. The defense's only witness was Lynch, who gave emotional testimony Friday of the alleged abuse at the hands of the priest.
Gemetti said Lynch testified under cross-examination by his attorneys that he wanted to hurt the priest. Asked why he had told him that his brother had died, Lynch responded on the stand that he wanted to hurt him. Photos of the bloodied priest were once again shown to the jury.
"This case isn't really about who did it ... this case is really about holding the defendant responsible for his actions even when we wish he wouldn't have suffered or we feel sympathy ... At its core this case is as simple as ... two wrongs don't make a right," she said.
Women who are abused for years by violent husbands are charged with murder when they kill them and gang members don't walk away free when they kill rival gang members, Gemetti said. "The laws protect everyone. The accuser and the accused."
Defense attorney Paul Mones argued that Lynch's act was not vigilantism or an act of revenge, but a result of Lynch being severely scarred by Lindner due to the horrific nature of the alleged sexual abuse at his hands.
"This was not an act of revenge," Mones said, arguing that the allegations brought against the priest were not simple sexual misconduct and sexual abuse, and molestation. "Those words sugar coat what happened here. The deplorable truth is that what happened to Will Lynch was rape, forcible sodomy," he said.
The most accurate way to describe what happened to Lynch at the hands of Lindner was of a child being tortured, he said. It's the type of torture that stayed with him his whole life, Mones said.
He said alleged threats made by the priest to Lynch and his brother as young children that he would kill them and their family were not idle and went to the core of Lynch's being.
The sexual assault and the torture acted like a "corrosive acid on his soul," his whole life being slowly eroded away and compromised by what the priest allegedly did, Mones said. He said Lynch better described it when he uttered on the stand, "He broke me. He totally broke me."
"What happened in the final analysis was not vigilantism, not revenge, but a legitimate and tragic scar that never healed and when he went to the center he wanted to confront Lindner and try to capture some normalcy and purge the ghosts of his youth," Mones said.
Harris then said while the prosecution had told the jury that no man is above the law, Lindner is above the law with the Jesuit order providing his medical care and his retirement despite several victims alleging he molested them. "Law enforcement wouldn't do it. The police wouldn't do it. The DA's office wouldn't do it and the Catholic Church wouldn't do it," Harris said about Lynch's confrontation of the priest.
Harris contended the DA's office broke the law when in opening statements Gemetti said she would put Lindner on the stand and he would lie about the molestation allegations. He also argued the DA's Office had broken the law by allowing the priest to give perjured testimony. "That law is alright," Harris said. "He can perjure himself. That's OK. That wasn't a problem."
The irony of the bizarre twists in the case, Harris said, is that Lindner would testify and commit the criminal act of perjury and get revenge on Lynch for an assault and that was OK, Harris said.
"Jerold Lindner was going to come in and commit a criminal act and get revenge on Will Lynch for an assault in a case where Lynch is being charged for doing a criminal act to get revenge on Jerold Lindner for an assault. Does that strike anybody as strange?" he asked.
"You can break the law in that case and therein lays the problem," Harris said, adding that he believed prosecutors had discretion in how they prosecuted Lynch and overcharged him for the assault.
He said authorities sometimes help parties resolve differences without taking matters to court and filing legal charges. "They want to make you believe that they had no choice ... absolutely false. They ... chose to prosecute Will Lynch and not only did they choose to prosecute [him] they chose to overprosecute him dramatically in the case on what at best is a misdemeanor simple assault," Harris said.
The great bodily injury charge is a joke, Harris said, as well as the elder abuse charge because he said the injuries were minor, the confrontation lasted less than 10 seconds and there's no evidence that Lynch knew how old the priest was when the assault took place.
The attorneys' closing arguments came after Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena read lengthy instructions to the jury.
Judge Cena also denied the defense's attempt to tell the jury what Lynch had done was in self-defense. "I don't believe there's any kind of evidence of behavior that would justify the application of self-defense," Judge Cena said.