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Key witness pleads 5th in priest beating trial

(Sketch by Vicki Behringer)
June 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There were some blockbuster developments Monday in the trial of William Lynch, the man accused of beating a Los Gatos priest he says repeatedly raped him as a child. The key witness' testimony will be stricken from the record.

The district attorney's office put Father Jerry Lindner on the stand last week, but not before telling jurors that he would likely lie and deny the molestation. The priest did just that. The defense then asked for a mistrial, calling it perjury. Monday, the district office argued it was only being honest and upfront with the court. The judge agreed and denied the motion for a mistrial. The judge also said that the defense can't prove with 100 percent certainty that Lindner lied because he was never charged nor convicted of molestation.

Attorneys for Lynch are furious. The asault case against him is moving forward but without the testimony of the man he is accused of beating. Father Jerry Lindner testified last week he never molested Lynch or his brother.

"I think it is a laughing stock of justice when the prosecution literally puts on a witness, lets them tell his entire tale, tell his story of what happened, and then we are supposed to the opportunity to question him and cross examine him and we don't get to," defense attorney Pat Harris said.

In a dramatic twist Monday, Lindner got on the stand and said he was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to answer any more questions about the molestation or anything else, including the 2010 confrontation with Lynch.

Both the defense and prosecution say the rape and molestation did take place.

"Even if he does not believe that he did anything wrong back 30 years ago, that the risk is just too great to continue to testify," legal observer Steve Clark said. "If the DA believes he's committing perjury, they could refer the case to the attorney general's office for that prosecution; it's a very serious felony."

The judge could have tried to force Lindner to testify by holding him in contempt and putting him in jail, but instead decided to continue on with the case and strike all of Lindner's testimony from the record.

"The twists and turns of this trial have been, continue to be exhausting for the supporters," Lynch supporter Christina Smith said. "We have been gratified to see the crimes of Father Jerry brought to light."

The defense will ask for another mistrial in the morning, but if testimony resumes as expected, Lynch will be taking the stand.

"He wants to tell the truth,' Harris said. "Unlike what you saw from that cowardly priest, this man is going to get on the stand and tell the truth."

All of the legal wrangling has been done outside of the jury's presence. Tuesday, the judge will presumably tell the jury to disregard all of Lindner's testimony.

Katie Marzullo contributed to this report.


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