SAN JOSE, Calif. — A man allegedly molested three decades ago by a priest was arrested Friday on charges that he lured the clergyman to the lobby of a Jesuit retirement home and beat him in front of shocked witnesses, authorities said.
William Lynch, 43, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for the May 10 attack that sent the Rev. Jerold Lindner to the hospital with bruises and lacerations, said Sgt. Rick Sung, Santa Clara County sheriff's spokesman.
Lynch harbored a fantasy for years of confronting the priest, who also allegedly molested his little brother.
Sung said Lynch attacked the 65-year-old priest after he failed to recognize him at the Jesuits' Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos. The attack occurred in a small room adjoining the lobby.
"They're saying it was pretty close to beating him to death," defense attorney Pat Harris told The Associated Press. "They're essentially saying that he waited all these years and then took out his revenge. It's sort of the ultimate revenge story."
Lynch and his younger brother settled with the Jesuits of the California Province, a Roman Catholic religious order, for $625,000 in 1998 after alleging that Lindner abused them in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The boys, who were 7 and 5 at the time, were raped in the woods and forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched, Harris said. Lindner has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his own sister and nieces and nephews.
Lynch was to be released on $25,000 bail, Harris said. The attorney negotiated his client's surrender and said Lynch will plead not guilty at his arraignment sometime next month.
Police connected Lynch to the attack using phone records, Sung said. A half hour before the beating, a caller identifying himself as "Eric" called the rest home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Lindner of a family member's death.
"The Father shows up in the lobby, at which point he was asked by the suspect if he knew who he was. When the Father answered 'No,' that's when the suspect started attacking," Sung said. "He was punching him in the face and all over the body. After the Father goes down, then the suspect takes off."
Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital. He did not return a call left on his answering machine Friday.
He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and has not been criminally charged. The abuse falls outside the statute of limitations.
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. The cases were included in the record-breaking $660 million settlement struck between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.
The Rev. John McGarry, the provincial, said Lindner had fully recovered and had resumed his work at the retirement home, where he helps care for 75 retired and invalid priests.
"As you can imagine it's very emotionally distressing to go through something like this. He hasn't spoken a lot about it," McGarry said of Lindner. "He's living a quiet life of prayer and service within our community."
Lynch declined an interview Friday but in a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, he said he'd had nightmares for years, battled depression and alcoholism and had attempted suicide twice because of the priest's abuse.
"Many times I thought of driving down to LA and confronting Father Jerry. I wanted to exorcise all of the rage and anger and bitterness he put into me," Lynch told the newspaper. "You can't put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life."
The Associated Press does not identify victims of sex crimes as a matter of policy, but Lynch previously came forward to tell his story.
Although rare, it's not unheard of for victims of sexual abuse to take revenge upon their abusers – and it can be normal for victims to fantasize about revenge without acting on it, said Steven Danish, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University who's counseled sexual abuse victims.
In Lynch's case, reading about Lindner in media accounts throughout the years and realizing he had gone unpunished could have pushed Lynch to act, said Danish, who has not treated Lynch.
"Imagine holding something inside for 35 years and letting it fester," Danish said. "He's probably thinking, 'You're living your life and here I am a failure and all because of what you did to me on that day.'"
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 before shot the clergyman three times 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 to death 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.
Lindner was ordained in 1976 and taught at various Catholic high schools during his career, including 16 years as chairman of the English department at Loyola High School, a prestigious Catholic prep school in Los Angeles.
There, he launched nearly two dozen after-school programs for students, including a chess club and renaissance club, and became master of a Boy Scout troop that included mostly lower-income Puerto Rican boys, his older brother, Larry Lindner, told The Associated Press.
Most of Lindner's family severed contact with him years ago after discovering he had molested his nieces and nephews when they were as young as 3. They were unaware of the attack, said his sister, Kathy McEntire.
McEntire said her brother molested her starting when she was 5 – and she learned 15 years ago that he also abused her son for years. She last spoke to her brother in 2001.
"Jerry's violent and I would not be surprised if he did get beat up. I could understand somebody getting that mad," McEntire told the AP. "I've often said myself that I don't trust myself around him. I would likely wind up in jail because I'd probably kick him somewhere where the sun doesn't shine – and I'm his sister."
During their last visit nine years ago, McEntire asked Lindner if any of the abuse allegations were true.
"I said, 'Is it true? He said, 'Well, some of it,'" McEntire said. "I called him a few choice words and that was the last time I ever saw him."
Larry Lindler, a retired Los Angeles police officer, said he last saw his brother more than two decades ago after he walked in on him molesting his 8-year-old daughter during a visit. The two were playing a game called "blankie" in which Lindner asked the little girl to lie over his lap like a blanket and then wiggled around as if trying to get comfortable.
"The last contact I had with him personally was the day after I caught him with my daughter and I told him he best get in his vehicle and leave," he recalled. "I said, 'If I go out to the truck and get my off-duty weapon out of the glove box, you're a dead man."
Flaccus reported from Tustin, Calif. Associated Press Writer Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.