Prosecutors called William Lynch a vigilante for beating up a Jesuit priest accused of sexually abusing him and his brother nearly 40 years ago, but the jury sided with the defendant and acquitted him of felony assault and elder abuse.

"I honestly thought I was going to jail," Lynch said, adding that he was fully prepared to do so.

Jerold Lindner is alleged to have molested Lynch during a camping trip in 1975, but was never tried due to an expired statute of limitations. He testified during Lynch's trial, but denied abusing him. Lynch received $625,000 from the Jesuits in 1998 as part of a confidential settlement.

In 2010, Lynch approached Lindner and asked him to sign a confession. He claims he began punching the priest after he "leered" at him, triggering terrible memories from his past. "I was wrong for what I did," the 44-year-old said. "I wanted to bring attention to the cause."

Though he was found not guilty of felony assault, Lynch could still have been convicted of misdemeanor assault, but the jury deadlocked 8-4.

In a statement, the California Province Jesuits called "abuse of any type aimed toward children or vulnerable adults" an "abhorrent violation of trust." They declined to comment about the Lynch case.

Lynch maintains that Lindner is "criminally insane" and a "sociopath" who needs to be "put away." Defense attorney Pat Harris said it might be possible to prosecute Lindner for lying under oath during the trial.

"Lindner is not beyond justice," he said. "He perjured himself and let's see them put him in jail."

[screengrab via KGO]