The trial of a former child psychiatrist accused of molesting young male patients, originally scheduled for early January, was pushed out to May — the latest in a string of delays that have frustrated the families of alleged victims angered that he remains free from custody while they await a judicial resolution.
At the last court appearance, prosecutors voiced confidence the January trial of Dr. William Hamilton Ayres, 76, would hold. On Tuesday, the prediction fell apart as Ayres’ trial was reset for May 11 to accommodate his defense attorney, Doron Weinberg, who is currently defending music producer Phil Spector against murder charges.
Ayres was a prominent San Mateo child psychiatrist who garnered national recognition for his controversial sex-education program and treated dozens of minors referred by schools and the justice system. He is charged with abusing seven former patients under the guise of medical examinations although the prosecution argues there are many more outside the statute of limitations. Ayres, who already settled one civil suit by a former patient, not included in the criminal case, has pleaded not guilty.
Ayres was arrested in April 2007 and has been essentially free from custody on varying amounts of bail since. He is charged with 20 felonies stemming from seven alleged victims between 1991 and 1996. Dozens more made allegations but fell outside the statute of limitations.
Accusations against Ayres have swirled since a former patient accused him of child abuse in 2003. Ayres settled the case in 2005 for an undisclosed sum and he was never charged criminally until a March 2006 search of his home and storage locker turned up hundreds of patient files. From those documents, authorities found three alleged victims which were within the statute of limitations. The following publicity brought out another approximately 27 to 29 other victims, four of which also fell within the statute.
Ayres’ practice included private clients and referrals from both the juvenile justice system and school districts. San Mateo police first began looking at Ayres in 2002 after a former patient accused him of molestation during the 1970s when he was 13. After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the statute of limitations nixed criminal prosecution, the victim and Ayres reached a confidential settlement in July 2005. In a deposition for the lawsuit, Ayres reportedly admitted conducting physical exams of patients as part of his care.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.