Church-abuse victim faces trial for beating priest

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“These are some of the toughest cases in criminal law,” Mr. Armour said. “Even though that jury will be told, ‘Don’t think about this, this is not evidence, it just goes to credibility,’ how are people going to keep those two things separate in their mind?”

There have been several other instances of violence, sometimes fatal, against priests accused of abuse since the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal unfolded in 2002.

In Baltimore, a man who claimed he was sodomized and fondled by a priest a decade earlier shot the clergyman three times in 2002 after the priest told him to go away when he demanded an apology. The defendant was acquitted of attempted murder but served 18 months of home detention on a gun conviction.

The following year, priest John Geoghan was strangled in his cell by a fellow inmate who claimed he was chosen by God to kill pedophiles. Geoghan was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for groping a boy and was at the center of the Boston clergy abuse scandal. He had been accused of molesting as many as 150 boys.

Police said they connected Mr. Lynch to the May 2010 attack using phone records. A half-hour before the beating, a man identifying himself as “Eric” called the rest home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Father Lindner of a family member’s death.

When Father Lindner showed up in the lobby, Mr. Lynch asked the 65-year-old priest if he recognized him. After the priest said he did not, Mr. Lynch began punching him, according to a police account. On a 911 tape, the assailant can be heard yelling, “Turn yourself in or I’ll (expletive) come back and kill you,” as a receptionist speaks to a dispatcher.

Father Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital and has since recovered.

Father Lindner was removed from ministry and placed at the Los Gatos retirement home in 2001. He was named in two additional lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Those cases were included in the record $660 million settlement between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.

Even if he is convicted, Mr. Lynch hopes that facing the priest in court will help him deal with the demons that he said have held him hostage for years. He has battled depression and alcoholism, attempted suicide and a failed marriage.

“He still comes into my dreams now. He just took ownership of me in a way that’s hard to get rid of, and I have to learn how to live with him,” Mr. Lynch said of the priest.

“My expectations are realistic, but I’m also coming into this for the first time sort of in control of my life.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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