SAN JOSE, Calif. – A jury Thursday acquitted a San Francisco man of felony charges that he beat up and abused the cleric he says brutally raped him decades ago.

The jury found Will Lynch not guilty of felony elder abuse and felony assault, and not guilty of misdemeanor elder abuse. It deadlocked 8-4 in favor of a conviction on misdemeanor assault.

The verdict was a triumph for Lynch, now 44, and his supporters, who faithfully packed the Santa Clara County courtroom as the trial stretched over three weeks.

“My heart leaps,” Lynch’s younger sister, Amanda Lynch, said of her reaction when she heard the verdict.

The prosecution contended that on May 10, 2010, Lynch, then 42, beat up the Rev. Jerold Lindner, who was 65, at the Sacred Heart retirement center in Los Gatos to avenge the priest’s alleged molestation of him and his brother in the 1970s on a camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Lindner was never prosecuted for allegedly molesting the Lynch brothers and at least nine other children because the statute of limitations had run out by the time they reported the alleged crimes.

From the first, Lynch refused to negotiate a plea deal. Not only was he acquitted, but he also achieved his two other goals — drawing national attention to the anguish of clergy sex-abuse survivors and pillorying Lindner, whom the Jesuits list as a child molester.

Prosecutor Vicki Gemetti had argued that while she believed Lindner molested the brothers, his repugnant act didn’t justify Lynch’s “vigilante” attack. The beating left the priest bruised and bloodied, with two cuts to his face and ear.

But Lynch’s attorneys essentially told the jury of nine men and three women that the wrong man was on trial.

“The DA says no man is above the law, but there is one man who has been above the law, who sits in a vineyard, with medical care and cars,” Harris said, referring to Lindner.

Without acknowledging any wrongdoing, the Jesuits paid Lynch and his brother about $187,000 each after legal fees in 1998 to settle a lawsuit they filed claiming Lindner had raped Lynch and made him have oral sex with his 4-year-old brother. The order also paid another camper more than $1.5 million to settle her lawsuit. In 2007, one of Lindner’s nieces sued the Jesuits for Lindner’s alleged sexual abuse of her as a child and settled for $786,000.

Lynch testified he confronted Lindner in hopes he would sign a confession to sexually molesting him and 4-year-old brother on the camping trip organized by a religious group.

He said he began pummeling Lindner after the priest refused to sign a confession and “leered” at him the same way he did during the alleged molestation decades ago.