Priest assault trial halted for day; lawyers meet
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The trial of a man accused of beating a priest that he claimed molested him decades ago was put on hold Thursday as the judge and lawyers discussed an undefined legal issue.
The judge dismissed the jury moments before the former priest, Jerold Lindner, was to testify for a second day.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena made the announcement after meeting privately with prosecutors and attorneys representing William Lynch, who had pleaded not guilty to assaulting Lindner in 2010.
Prosecutors and lawyers declined to comment about the legal issue outside court. During testimony Wednesday, Lindner denied sexually assaulting Lynch and his younger brother, a statement that appeared to be perjury after prosecutors had said the former priest did molest Lynch but expected him to lie.
Immediately after Lindner’s denial, Lynch’s attorney asked the judge to admonish the priest in front of the jury about his right to counsel.
The Catholic Church has settled lawsuits alleging Lindner sexually abused children, including Lynch when he was 7 and his brother when he was 4.
Prosecutors have urged the jury to look past the priest’s “past sins and crimes” and convict Lynch of taking the law into his own hands by attacking Lindner at a home for retired priests that also houses priests accused of sexual abuse.
Another of Lindner’s alleged victims, who settled a separate lawsuit against the church, accosted Lindner when he showed up to court on Thursday.
“Look me in the eye,” Debbie Lukas shouted at Linder as he approached the courtroom.
The former priest, apparently unaware that court had been canceled, was hustled down a back staircase and sheriff’s deputies ordered Lukas out of the courthouse.
Outside, Lukas declined to comment because she may be called as a witness in the Lynch trial.
The judge earlier said Lindner’s victims could testify about their abuse at his hands if he denied molesting Lynch. With the Linder’s denial on the witness stand, that means Lukas and two other alleged victims of Lindner, including Lynch’s brother, may now be allowed to testify.
In the months since his arrest, Lynch has refused to discuss a plea deal with prosecutors and has grown intent on using his own legal troubles to try Lindner in the court of public opinion.
Lynch faces up to four years in prison if convicted on all charges.