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Man using trial to criticize priest

Man using trial to criticize priest

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By GILLIAN FLACCUS

and TERENCE CHEA

Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Will Lynch is looking for justice in an unusual way. Charged with savagely beating the priest he says molested him as a child, he plans to try to use his trial to publicly shame the Rev. Jerold Lindner in court and call attention to clergy abuse.

Law experts say he faces an uphill battle. But priest abuse victims are cheering him on and offering to donate to his defense fund.

"Somebody needs to be a face for this abuse and I'm prepared to put myself on the line," Lynch told The Associated Press in the first interview since his arrest last month. "There's nothing they can take from me that they haven't already taken."

Lynch is accused of luring Lindner to the lobby of Jesuits' Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos on May 10 and beating him bloody in front of horrified witnesses.

The 43-year-old has said he will plead not guilty, but he did not enter a plea during a brief hearing Friday before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome S. Nadler. Another hearing is set for next month.

Lynch accuses the 65-year-old Jesuit priest of sexually abusing him and his younger brother in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The boys, 7 and 4 at the time, were raped and forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched, Lynch said.

Lindner has repeatedly denied abusing anyone and has never been criminally charged. He hung up Wednesday when the AP called him for comment.

In a deposition in the late 1990s, Lindner said he didn't recall Lynch or his brother, though the siblings received $625,000 in a 1998 confidential settlement with the Jesuits for alleged abuse by the priest.

Lynch says memories of the priest have tormented him for years, and he struggled through alcohol abuse, depression, nightmares and divorce. He tried to commit suicide twice.

Lynch refused to discuss the beating in the AP interview last week. However, he said he hopes to use his case to bring attention to Lindner's alleged abuse, as well as to heighten awareness of clergy sex abuse and encourage other victims to come forward.

"He took my faith, he took my innocence, he took my sense of self," Lynch said of Lindner. "He raped me, he tortured me, he violated me in every single way, and he completely changed who I was supposed to be forever.

"I think there's an opportunity here with this media attention that I can possibly ... help people seek justice," Lynch said.

At least 10 people have accused Lindner of molestation, including family members. Harris says that could allow the defense to bring the priest's other accusers as witnesses in a trial that would portray Lynch as a sympathetic victim.

Experts say that is unlikely.

"The law does not allow you to go and assault somebody who did something to you 35 years ago," said Rebecca Lonergan, a former federal and state prosecutor who now teaches law at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law.

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