Claiming that he cannot be impartial, a San Mateo County superior court judge recused himself from presiding over reconsideration of a decision to allow the use of more than 800 former patient records in a prominent former child psychiatrists molestation trial.
Dr. William Hamilton Ayres, 75, returns to court April 4 for a new hearing on the defense motion to squash the evidence. Retired Judge John Runde was expected to hear the matter because he made the initial ruling but on March 18 he filed an order recusing himself.
Runde did not specify why but notes that "antipathy to counsel” means he "cannot be impartial to both sides.”
Presiding Judge Robert Foiles will instead assign the hearing to a new judge, making it possible the matter will be delayed even later to allow that appointee time to review the documents.
Ayres’ case has moved slowly since his arrest on dozens of molestation charges, most recently after Judge Cliff Cretan postponed his trial date to allow him time for prostate cancer treatment. Trial was re-set for June 23 although the upcoming hearing could cause yet another postponement.
Ayres is accused of fondling dozens of former male patients under the guise of conducting medical examinations. He is charged with 20 felonies stemming from seven alleged victims but prosecutors maintain there are a number of others who fall outside the statute of limitations. During the investigation into the initial claims, law enforcement personnel obtained a search warrant for Ayres’ home and a subsequent warrant for his storage locker.
Defense attorney Doran Weinberg argued the warrants violated the state’s doctor-patient confidentiality and lacked probable cause.
Runde, who signed the warrant in 2006, initially upheld its validity but a state appellate court ruled Ayres deserved new consideration because the defense did not receive a full hearing.
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 the March 2006 search.
Ayres is free from custody on $750,000 cash bail.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.