Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day of Reckoning Arrives for Child Psychiatrist

Dr. William Ayres 

A long and winding road toward justice is finally reaching its end. After years of delays, the San Mateo County courthouse in Redwood City will finally begin to hear the voices of 11 former patients who allege they were molested by Dr. William Ayres while undergoing school or court-ordered or parental referred psychotherapy while adolescents (in some cases, as young as elementary school-aged).
A total of 41 former patients of Ayres have gone public with their allegations of abuse at the hands of the physician (or have been identified by the San Mateo County’s DA office), although he is currently charged with molesting seven former patients between 1991 and 1996.
Normal “housekeeping” activities were on the docket this week, including pretrial motions and the assignment of a judge to hear the case. Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman (Department 3, courtroom 2L) has been selected to hear this trial, and jury selection will officially begin on Monday, June 8—a jury of 12 with four alternates. Jury selection may last up to two weeks, and testimony is expected to last 8 to 12 weeks.
Other housekeeping activities included defense attorney Doron Weinberg, prosecutor Melissa McKowan, and the court establishing a definition of the word “masturbation.” As part of an exchange in dialogue between the attorneys and the court, McKowan characterized an incident between Ayres and one of the boys as the physician unzipping the boy’s pants and started “fishing around.” Ayres, whose affect has thus far been as flat and blunted as Phil Spector’s was observed to be during his trials, visibly flinched and turned his face to the wall. Since his arrest, Ayres now uses a walker to get around, and thus far the device has remained in plain view within the defendant’s reach. He is also morbidly obese.
Weinberg also continues his confrontational ways by arranging to have freelance author Victoria Balfour, the civilian whistleblower who was a driving force in getting this case brought to trial, removed from the courtroom, stating she is a potential witness. (Even though Balfour’s knowledge of the case would be considered hearsay, as she didn’t observe the abuse and has never had any contact with the seven victims within statute. Because Balfour is a published author, with works appearing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People and Vogue, among others, one might argue there are some First Amendments rights being stepped on here by the defense attorney.)
Ayres, now retired at age 77, was arrested in 2007 after an on-and-off investigation that began in 1987. That initial complaint was investigated but no charges were brought against the psychiatrist. Additional alleged victims came foreword in 1994 and 1996.
Ayres claims that physical examinations were a normal thing for him to do, including more than cursory examinations of the boys’ genitalia. Most child psychiatrists today do not perform physical exams on a routine basis. And the young men who allege abuse state that what they experienced was much more than a cursory look or touch—some claim they were masturbated to the point of ejaculation.
The case started moving toward justice again in 2002, when another former patient went public at the urging of his friend, freelance writer Victoria Balfour. That case was in the process of being investigated when the United States Supreme Court made a ruling changing the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases. Childhood molestation charges can be brought by victims who are younger than 29 or whose alleged abuse occurred after January 1, 1988. The criminal proceedings of that case were dropped and ultimately a civil judgment was brought and awarded against Ayres.
The case took on new life in 2005 thanks Balfour’s own detective work, locating and encouraging former patients of Ayres to speak up about their own abuse, knowing her friend’s abuse (and the complaint brought in 1987) could not possibly have been the only two cases of molestation. Police in San Mateo began to investigate in earnest, executing a search warrant for Ayres’ patients’ records, identifying possible victims of abuse.
Ayres had been treating county-referred patients as recently as 2004.
As a result of pouring over the medical records, identifying possible victims and victims coming forward as part of the investigation, Ayres was arrested in April 2007, and was allowed to post $750,000 bail. He has not been practicing medicine in any form since that time and has allowed his medical license to lapse. While out on bail he has been treated for prostate cancer.
Ayres had been a practicing psychiatrist in San Mateo County since the 1960s where he was one of the few San Mateo County psychiatrists with a subspecialty in child and adolescent psychiatry. He hosted a controversial PBS documentary in 1968 titled “Time of Your Life,” a sex education series geared toward elementary-aged children.
This trial will be the first time most of the alleged victims will be testifying in open court. During a preliminary hearing in 2007, police officers testified in lieu of the former patients, revealing information the men has shared during the investigation, describing their ages and their experiences during their appointments with Ayres. One San Mateo officer testified that one of the young men said Ayres told him no one would believe his stories of abuse—that no one would believe the good doctor had done such a thing, and no one would believe a troubled teenager.
The delay in hearing this trial is not due to any extra time being needed by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office. This trial has been continued because of Ayres’ health issues, issues within the court, and defense attorney Weinberg’s involvement with the recently concluded Phil Spector case.
The first start date, on March 10, 2008, was postponed in order for Ayres to undergo treatment for prostate cancer. The second start date, June 23, 2008, was cancelled with a state appeals court hearing regarding the admissibility of the patient files as evidence (Weinberg argued using the files as evidence violated the state's psychotherapist-patient privilege, lacked probable cause and permitted constitutionally prohibited searches). The files were ultimately declared admissible. 
The third delay was due to the unexpected withdrawal of Superior Court Judge John Runde from the case, who wisely removed himself from the case because of his antipathy toward Weinberg. While no specific incident has been officially offered as an explanation, the judge does have the right to recuse from a case if he or she feels that there is something that could bias his or her decision-making process. It is possible that Weinberg’s actions during a December 2007 hearing aggravated the judge past the point of no return.
A fourth start date was scheduled for January 2009, but due to scheduling conflicts due to Weinberg’s involvement in the Spector trial, a fifth start date was scheduled for May, which was again delayed because of sentencing in the Spector trial.
There are allegations of abuse going back to the late 1960s, but these of course are well past the statute of limitations and inadmissible. For some of Ayres’ former patients, their only opportunity to speak in front of the court will be at Ayres’ sentencing.
The team at T&T wishes strength to the former patients of this psychiatrist who have been brave enough to follow through and do what is right, for themselves and for the other boys (now young men) who may not yet be strong enough to come forward. You are not the criminal here.
We also hope the First Amendment rights of reporter Victoria Balfour are restored posthaste


donchais said...

Thanks so much for the excellent in-depth article.

My hearts breaks for the poor victims of this beast, Ayres.

As for Ms. Balfour being tossed from the court - Weinberg is kidding right?
Regardless, Ayers and Weinberg can't be stupid enough to think having a freelance writer tossed from court is going to stop the general public from following this trial?

Well, maybe in their arrogance, they can!

ritanita said...

Donchais, I echo your sentiments.

This is a case that needs to see the light of day and not be hidden in the darkness.

All the victims who have come forward as well as those whose cases can't be heard need to have our support and compassion.

Susan said...

Thank you for this commentary and great links. I knew of this man (as I grew up in San Mateo County) and "all" the kids living in affluent Hillsborough saw this man, as well as the kids from "Juvie Hall". It was long rumored that he had issues and came as a surprise to no one that he was finally charged. The real quandary: what took so long?

I also know John Runde and must say he's a bit too self-righteous for me but sorry to see him go. He's long been upset with the scandals in the Catholic Church.

Thanks for the great post. The good people of San Mateo County are watching this case and saddened they allowed this man access to their children.

Anonymous said...

Great story, as usual.

Here is some more excellent coverage on the case at and

Anonymous said...

What is Weinberg afraid of, having published authors inside the courtroom? What's next, banning the newspapers?

I assume the victims are suing the pants off the culprit.
Wes J.

Sprocket said...

Excellent entry CaliGirl9.

Ayres day of reckoning is finally upon him.

This is a case that needs the media spotlight on it and I hope that Victoria is successful in getting back inside that courtroom!

Anonymous said...

This is a great case because I am sure there are so many unreported cases of single kids being abused.

Great reporting, thanks!

The Patient Advocate said...

Great courage has been shown by all in this case.

I am very proud of how the community has come together to prosecute this case.

By community, I mean the victims, parents and our adopted community member Victoria Balfour!

I'll expressed my my opinions on the DA and the latest development of banishing Victoria Balfour on my blog.....I hope the DA reads it!

It seemed like forever to get the case going, but now that it is here and more truths are unfolding I have all the confidence in the world in the jurors of San Mateo County that they will understand the evidence and testimony and Ayres will no doubt be convicted.

If Ayres flinches at the word masterbated, I doubt that the jurors will react any differnetly and even more so.

Why would Ayres flinch, he tried to educate children in the PBS series, wasn't that his main gripe, talk about it........well now he is going to hear about sexual abuse in the most graphic of terms.

I hope he can handle that for a few weeks! Weak heart, or cruel heart, he better get a better sympathy prop than his walker.

Anonymous said...

This is a very well written, even-toned article. It tells it "like it is". Thanks to all who had a part in it.

Anonymous said...

Re those who didn't come forward:

When I realized at-- age 60-- that something I had accepted as a child was actually childhood sex abuse, it stopped me in my tracks. I was shocked to realize that this was indeed what it was and that I had been either too ignorant or just too obedient to realize it previously.

No, it wasn't easy for me to face this, as it makes me have a different attitude toward someone I loved, even though what had occurred was over 40 years ago.

I had not been educated as to what was or was not acceptable, though for the most part I had a pretty good idea of taboos. However, the idea of ratting on an "authority figure" is something I would never have done.

That is why the Ayers case strikes me. Here is an authority figure who abused his power especially with the most vulnerable. And each, individual person, never thought it had happened to anyone else, and may also have felt guilt because there was a certain sexual pleasure in it at some point, thus in some way making it an ok secret.

I feel deeply for the victims and hope that their being open about this case will make children and all of us more aware of the way we should respect other human beings.

Thanks for great reporting.

Anonymous said...

That doctor is most unfortunate looking.

Anonymous said...

absolutely and patently ridiculous that a psychiatrist would need to physically examine the genitals.

this guy should have been locked away decades ago.

lock away WHINEberg also. I thought representing phil spector was gross, but representing this sicko takes the cake.

Anonymous said...

Opening statements start June 16, 2009

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that it was actually prosecutor Melissa McKowan who did not want Victoria Balfour in the courtroom? Was Weinberg actually aware that she was in the courtroom? Did he even know what she looked like ? Some spectators say that it was McKowan herself who pointed out Balfour to Weinberg. If so not cool on her part at all.

Anonymous said...

Lively discussion on the role of Balfour in the courtroom here:

It would appear to us that both Weinberg and prosecutor McKowan are treading on potentially dangerous ground.

Anonymous said...

" He is also morbidly obese."

In another blog last year, ayres' wife referred to her husband as "rather portly."

That sounds like a woman in denial.

Anonymous said...

Portly, he looks like the Foster Farms chickens that are "plumped" up with salt out if he springs a leak!

Anonymous said...

Jury selection halted today, Wednesday June 10 has the scoop on this. See Trial Watch, Week Two, Day Three for details.

Anonymous said...

Today, June 15, 2009, Whiney was back in the courtroom after a five day hiatus, STILL quibbling about the definition of masturbation and fondling in pre-trial motions. Testimony was offered today that Dr. Ayres stood behind one victim in his office and put his hand down his pants and with the back of his hand touched the victim's genitalia and penis. The poor victim was there todayl in the event that he was called to testify. Fortunately he did not have to at this pretrial motion but will be testifying in the trial. Reports are that the victim was very agitated to be there. Our hearts go out to him.

Whineberg lost his motion to keep the evidence out .Judge Freeman ruled that the appellate court had ruled that it was admissible on intent.

Delay, delay, quibble, argue, whine. Nothing's changed from the Spector trial for Weinberg.

Anonymous said...

Saw this comment by Ayres victim,"Deep Sounding," posted over at

[However, a spokesperson for actress Lana Clarkson's family said, “After six years of character assassination by Mr. Spector’s lawyers, we are pleased with the result. There is no joy here, but now he knows that actions have consequences.”]

This last paragraph has a great deal of depth, at least for me. No matter the outcome of the ayres trial, I will always have to deal at some level with him. Nothing will really change for ME regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted. He will still be a dangerous molester, and his supporters will still back him to the bitter end.

I try very hard not to "wish evil" to fall upon anyone: much like Lana's family, I expect "no joy here." This is about what is RIGHT, not about what will make me feel better.

And also as Lana's family said, perhaps ayres and his supporters will finally learn that actions do have consequences. ayres and his supporters are feeling those consequences now, and will hopefully continue in their increasing understanding of the evil that they, through their deeds, and their tacit support of those deeds; through either active denial, or through the provision of "good character" witness without adequate inquisitiveness of the full nature of the charges, have wrought upon themselves.

They say that the road to hell is a slippery one, and ayres has greased the path for his wife, his friends, and his public supporters. Perhaps they will see the evil they have done, and climb back up that road. I'm not holding my breath.