(SAN JOSE, Calif.) — William Lynch, the California man who admitted he pummeled a priest who he said abused him as a boy, has been found not guilty of felony assault and elder abuse charges.
The jury of nine men and three women could not reach a verdict on a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault for the 2010 attack at a retirement home.
The jury began deliberations late Monday after hearing impassioned closing arguments from both sides.
The defense’s strategy had long been to prove to the jury that the wrong man was on trial. However, prosecutor Vicki Gemetti urged jurors to focus on the assault.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” she said in her closing arguments on Monday.
Lynch’s crusade for his own form of personal justice against the priest, Jerry Lindner, drew supporters to the courthouse in San Jose, Calif., during his nearly three-week trial. They carried signs that read “stop clergy sex abuse” and condemned the “pedophile playground” retirement community that is home to Lindner, who has had previous allegations against him.
Lynch testified last Friday that he visited Lindner with the intention of having the aging Jesuit sign a confession, but when the priest “looked up and leered” at Lynch in the same manner he did more than 35 years ago when he sexually abused him, Lynch said he ordered the priest to take off his glasses and hit him.
Lynch passed up a plea deal of one year in jail and instead chose to go to trial to publicly shame the man who he said haunted his memories for 35 years.
On a family camping trip 35 years ago, Lynch said he was brutally raped at age 7 by Lindner and was then forced to perform sex acts on his 4-year-old brother.
The boys kept their painful secret for years, long past the six-year statute of limitations California had in place at the time of the alleged crimes.
Lynch got his wish to see the priest in court, even if the tables were turned. Lindner was forced to testify, but a short time later the Jesuit invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The judge struck his testimony from the record.
During his short time on the stand, Lindner, now 67, told the court he remembered Lynch, but only as the man who attacked him at a Los Gatos, Calif., Jesuit retirement community where the priest has resided since 2001.
Lindner denied molesting Lynch and his younger brother on a camping trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1974.
Lynch’s attorney declared the priest had perjured himself and even prosecutor Vicki Gemetti said in her opening statement that she expected Lindner to lie on the stand or say he didn’t remember certain events.
“The evidence will show [Lindner] molested the defendant all those years ago,” she said, but urged the jury to focus on Lynch’s attack.
Lynch’s case of alleged vigilante justice has attracted support from around the world and has shed light on a justice system many view as flawed.
Lynch and his brother were awarded $625,000 after filing a civil suit against Lindner in 1997. The priest was removed from active ministry and was moved to the Jesuit retirement community in 2001.
Lindner was named in two other abuse lawsuits, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Doug Criss, CNN
Faith Karimi, CNN
Heather Kelly, CNN