Thursday, February 10, 2011

Accused and convicted priests shelteree

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/nationalbreaking/ci_17341935
Witness: Priest who was injured in revenge beating on 'list' of alleged and convicted molesters
By Tracey Kaplan


tkaplan@mercurynews.com

Posted: 02/09/2011 02:13:27 PM PST



In a surprising admission Wednesday, a Catholic Church employee testified that the Los Gatos priest attacked by a man who claimed the cleric sexually molested him as a child is indeed on a list the church keeps of alleged molesters.

The acknowledgment by Mary Margaret Eden won't change the fact that Judge David A. Cena is likely Thursday to decide there is enough evidence to hold Will Lynch, 44, over for trial for what has been portrayed as a revenge beating. And it has long been known that the Sacred Heart retirement and medical center in Los Gatos where the Rev. Jerry Lindner resides has become a place for the church to house clerics suspected of abusing children.

But by quickly drawing out damaging information about the priest, Lynch's attorney Pat Harris achieved several goals. Most important, he can use the fact that the church has classified the priest as an alleged molester to try to win sympathy for Lynch from jurors in the upcoming trial, potentially reducing the chances they'll vote unanimously to convict him on the felony assault charge. It also lends credibility to Lynch's molestation accusation.

That is especially significant because the judge Wednesday repeatedly blocked other attempts by the defense lawyer to introduce Lindner's history in the church, ruling the matter was either irrelevant or unduly prejudicial. Lindner was removed from active ministry in Los Angeles in 1997 in response to a civil suit filed by Lynch that year,


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and the Jesuits paid Lynch and his brother, who were 7 and 5 at the time of the alleged abuse, a $625,000 settlement. Lindner also has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his sister, brother and niece.

Vocal protesters

If Lynch is convicted of felony assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, he could face up to four years in state prison. Harris has argued that Lindner's injuries were relatively minor and asked the judge to reduce the charge to misdemeanor assault, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. But legal experts say the judge is unlikely to grant the request because Lindner, who was 65 at the time, was badly bruised and required stitches for small cuts above his left eye and right ear.

Lynch's attorney also subpoenaed the priest, who spent most of the day sequestered out of the public eye at the courthouse under the protection of armed bailiffs because of a protest against him in front of the courthouse. About 25 protesters, including some of his alleged victims, marched Wednesday, bearing signs that read, "Jail Father Jerry," "Sacred Heart Jesuit Center: Pedophile Playground" and "Help Free Willy." The protesters also attended the hearing.

But the judge refused to allow Harris to put the priest on the stand. Under California law, defense attorneys have extremely limited rights to compel victims to testify during the preliminary hearing.

The most dramatic moment of the hearing came when prosecutor Vicki Gemetti called Eden to the stand as an eyewitness who saw Lynch at the Sacred Heart center where the priest lives and her office is based on the day of the attack, May 10.

Surprise testimony

Eden, a health care administrator for the church, testified that she saw Lynch punch the elderly priest twice, contradicting information she gave in two interviews with Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies. In those interviews, she said she only saw him pacing and yelling that the priest had forced him to have sex with his own brother. She also identified him in court as the attacker.

The prosecutor also asked Eden why people were housed at the center, leaving an opening for Harris. Eden told Gemetti the center housed priests who were elderly or recovering from surgery.

On cross-examination, Harris said: "You gave two reasons why they are there. But there's a third reason, isn't there?"

"We do have Jesuits that have been sent to Sacred Heart for different reasons," Eden said.

Harris said, "One of the reasons is they are accused of or convicted of molestation," adding, "And you understand that about Father Lindner, is that correct?"

"Yes," Eden said.

Later, Harris pursued the issue further, asking Eden if the east wing, rather than the infirmary wing, was where "they keep the molesters."

"We have a Jesuit in the infirmary who is on the list," Eden said.

"So there's a list of molesters?" Harris asked, drawing an objection from Gemetti that the judge sustained.

Besides its legal value for the defense case, Eden's testimony furthers the agenda of Lynch and other alleged victims of Lindner, who want to use the trial to ''out" the priest.

Lindner cannot be prosecuted because the alleged molestation against Lynch and other alleged victims took place in the 1970s. By the time Lynch reported it about 20 years later, the six-year statute of limitations in effect at the time of the alleged abuse had elapsed.

Lynch and his brother have said they were raped and forced to have sex with each other during camping trips to Portola State Park while Lindner -- a spiritual adviser at the Christian camp -- looked on.

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