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January trial for child psychiatrist
July 25, 2008, 12:00 AM By Michelle Durand

The 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 will stand trial early next year on allegations he molested some male patients.

Dr. William Ayres, 76, is accused of abusing seven former patients under the guise of medical examinations. 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 returns to court Oct. 14 for a pretrial conference before beginning jury trial Jan. 5, 2009.

The dates came after Judge Norman Gatzert issued a 30-page opinion upholding the validity of a search warrant that turned up 800 former patient files, some of which led to the charges against Ayres. Gatzert was expected to take the matter under submission and rule within the week. Instead, he offered both sides his ruling and declined to hear further argument.

The warrant is a key decision in the Ayres case. If the document was tossed, so would be any charges directly stemming from the files it uncovered. Without those victims, the prosecution case is substantially weakened.

Gatzert previously denied the defense argument the warrant improperly invaded the confidentiality of patients without a compelling reason. He requested more arguments, though, based on an April U.S. Supreme Court ruling which questioned if violation of state law renders moot federal search and seizure rules.

Ayres 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 the March 2006 search of his home and storage locker.

As a result of publicity after the civil settlement, 10 alleged victims ultimately came forward but all were beyond the statute of limitations for both criminal prosecution and medical license suspension. Police were at their wit’s ends and seized the records as a final effort, San Mateo Deputy Police Chief Mike Callagy previously told the court.

Three alleged victims with the statute turned up which generated national publicity and 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. He also became known as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and for hosting the sex education series "Time of Your Life.” Ayres received juvenile court referrals up through 2004. 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: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. 

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