Fresh off the murder trial of music producer Phil Spector, defense attorney Doran Weinberg successfully requested another three weeks to prepare for the long-awaited molestation trial of a prominent San Mateo child psychiatrist.
The District Attorney’s Office opposed the continuance request but Judge James Ellis ultimately agreed to give the defense time to prepare its case for Dr. William Hamilton Ayres. The case, previously scheduled for May 11, is now set for trial June 1.
Weinberg recently finished representing Spector who was just convicted in a second trial of the second-degree murder of a movie actress shot in his Southern California home. The Spector case was given as reason for previous delays but the prosecution tried yesterday from preventing it from causing another postponement in the case of Ayres.
The ongoing string of trial dates have long frustrated the families of his alleged victims, former male patients, who are angered Ayres, 77, is free from custody while they await what they hope is justice.
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.