Will Lynch was acquitted in San Jose, Calif., after a three-week trial for beating a retired Jesuit priest he said raped him and his little brother, then 7 and 4, in the mid ’70s.
It was an amazing legal victory for victims of child sex abuse by clergy and laymen nationwide.
Lynch admitted hitting the Rev. Jerold Lindner, who was bruised and had two cuts on his ears and face. Lynch was accused of felony assault, elder abuse and misdemeanor assault. He refused to take a plea.
Lynch said he was willing to face four years behind bars if only to get Lindner cross-examined concerning the sexual abuse.
But the system worked against that idea. Lindner took the stand, described being hit by Lynch and then pleaded the Fifth – to prevent self-incrimination.
The judge ordered all his testimony struck from the record.
Lindner was free again. He couldn’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run, and he couldn’t be questioned because of the Fifth Amendment.
There’s an outside chance Lindner might face perjury charges. It would be a risky legal move, but maybe a necessary one.
Do you ever wonder why victims of child sex abuse are not only victims of the attack, but they’re also victims of the system we call “justice”?
I can’t even contemplate how I’d feel if my child were the victim of sexual abuse.
I admit I’ve said that anyone who deliberately hurts my child is a dead man walking. I’ve said it, and I mean it. I’d gladly do what is necessary for justice if the system doesn’t work – and especially if the system is set up to protect the perpetrator of the crime.
Am I admitting I’m capable of violence? You bet I am, and I believe everyone is capable of violence under the right circumstances and for the right reason.
Seeking justice for abhorrent and vile, sexual crimes against innocent children is something I can understand. I believe that, under the right circumstances, is perfectly justifiable.
It may be illegal, but it would be morally justifiable.
Once it was called “vigilante justice” – citizens taking the law into their own hands to bring justice to a lawbreaker when the system is corrupt, wrong or just plain broken.
We’ve become so “civilized” that anyone who contemplates such actions becomes, in the eyes of society, almost as evil as the criminal. If they carry out such actions, they become a criminal.
The “V” word is very much out of fashion, but when the system doesn’t work, the human urge to even things out doesn’t go away, whether you’re talking about real life or a Hollywood movie.
In 1974, Charles Bronson starred in “Death Wish.” He played a happily married man, Paul Kersey, who abhorred violence and had been a conscientious objector during the Korean War but served as a medic.
Following a vacation, there was a break-in at their New York apartment; Kersey’s wife was beaten and killed, and his young daughter brutally sexually assaulted. The police told Kersey there was little chance of finding the attackers.
That was the beginning of his series of killing street muggers and robbers. The movie was a smash hit and led to four sequels. It was derided as promoting lawlessness, yet it struck a chord among people who were the victims of crimes with no justice.
That was fiction but personal justice was real for Ellie Nessler, a California woman who killed the man accused of sexually molesting her young son.
In 1993, during a preliminary hearing in a Jamestown, Calif., courtroom, 35-year-old Daniel Driver stood accused of molesting four boys, including Nessler’s 7-year-old son, Willie.
In the courtroom that day, Nessler pulled a gun and shot Driver five times in the head and neck, killing him.
Some criticized her for taking the law into her own hands; others praised her as a mother protecting her child from having to testify in court against his molester. There were T-shirts saying, “Nice shooting, Ellie.”
She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, eventually serving three years.
The molestation and the legal fallout ruined her life and that of her son, who fell into crime and eventually was imprisoned for murder.
I’ve looked at many cases of sexually molested children and spoken to experts on the subject, and the common denominator is that sex abuse damages the child physically and mentally, destroys their childhood and leaves them with permanent mental torture.
It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator is brought to justice or gets away scot free, the victim is mortally damaged on so many levels it’s nearly impossible for others to understand.
Some say, “get over it.” No – that isn’t possible.
Others say, “it wasn’t your fault.” It wasn’t, but the victim believes it was and often carries guilt that they made it happen. Often the abuser tells them that, and as children, they believe.
Even worse, is that “normal” people find it hard to believe that someone, especially a trusted person, could do such a thing to a child. They don’t even believe the children. Who can imagine raping a baby?
Child sexual abuse is such a horrific crime on so many levels that the justice system can’t really deal with it.
The most egregious example is the statute of limitations. Every state decides for itself. A few have none, for some, i.e. California, it’s one year, for some, it’s longer.
What the statute of limitations really means is that if the criminal can stall accusations for the specified time, he or she free and clear.
Imagine. Wait it out and walk.
That has to change. It must change. It can change.
There is no statute of limitations on murder. There should be none for child sex abuse.