Jury Sends Strong Message; Finds Man Not Guilty of Beating His Abuser

A jury in California sent a strong message to sexual predators this week when they declined to convict a man who admitted beating the priest who had sexually abused him years earlier.

Although William Lynch, now 44, admitted that he had beaten the Jesuit priest who molested him as a child, the nine-man, three-woman jury declined to find him guilty of felony assault and elder abuse. The jury also deadlocked on a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault.

According to ABC News, the beating occurred in 2010 at a Jesuit nursing home where Rev. Jerold Lidner moved after retiring from the ministry in 2001. Lynch told the court he had visited the home in homes of getting a signed confession from the priest, now 67. Instead, when Lidner “leered” at Lynch, the younger man was overwhelmed with emotion and began beating the priest. Lidner was called to testify during the trial, but after denying that he had abused Lynch, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right, remaining silent. (Lynch’s supporters are now calling for perjury charges to be filed against Lidner, who has also been named in two other sexual abuse lawsuits.)

What made this case so unusual is that Lynch turned down a plea deal – which would have given him just one year in jail, although he said he fully expected the jury to find him guilty. His goal in denying the plea deal was to bring more publicity to the case and further expose the ongoing problem of sexual abuse within the church. It turned out to be his best move: the jury found no reason to incarcerate him, and the three-week trial drew numerous supporters, many of whom protested sexual abuse by clergy members.

The “not guilty” verdict illustrates the dramatic shift in how sexual abuse is being viewed – and how perpetrators will be treated. The jury saw evidence that Lynch had been the true victim in this case, and proved they were unwilling to harbor and protect a pedophile – even if the church continues to do so.

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