Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let the Healing Begin

The constellation Orion

The long-awaited child molestation trial of San Mateo County psychiatrist William Ayres finally began on a near-perfect summer day in Redwood City, California—a day that is ideal for healing to begin in earnest. In the gallery of Courtroom 2L were the parents of some of the out-of-statute boys (now men) who were referred to the child psychiatrist for minor psychological problems such as ADD, ADHD, bedwetting and self-esteem issues—problems that can manifest in pre-adolescence or adolescence.

If the alleged facts of this case are hard enough to listen to, imagine how the parents of the boys, who were between the ages of 8 and 13 or 14, feel about what their sons went through. Most sent their sons to the psychiatrist on the recommendation of a school counselor or pediatrician. Many of the families self-paid for that “therapy” that has lead to a lifetime of hurt for their sons, and their own grief that their decision to seek therapy has irreparably harmed their sons.

Of course no trial is without side dramas, even as the case begins.

The first motion was of much importance, and itself deserves a post of its own (which will happen over the weekend). To sum, journalist Victoria Balfour was allowed to listen to opening arguments but was ordered to leave the room after receiving a subpoena from Weinberg, who stated there was the “possibility of calling” Balfour as a witness on July 9. Balfour’s attorney argued she had a right to be there, on assignment from a newspaper in Southern California. In a blow to the reporter’s First Amendment rights, the judge excluded Balfour from hearing any testimony.

In a side action, a reporter from KGO-TV asked for permission to tape the opening statement, but the judge could not recall receiving the request in a timely manner. She denied permission for a camera person to take video of opening arguments. After a break, it was brought to her attention that the request had indeed been made, but that did not change her decision. KGO will be following up.

(Remember this is the same county that hosted the Scott Peterson trial. No cameras there either.)

Next was a motion by defense attorney Doron Weinberg (yes, that Doron Weinberg, late of the Spector trial) argued that a report submitted by the prosecution was not received in a timely manner. The report, about the standard of care in a psychiatric case, had been presented during previous court proceedings and the expert witness recently updated the report to include a couple additional articles. Weinberg claimed he didn't have enough time to go through the articles.

Prosecutor Melissa McKowan stated she called Weinberg on Sunday to inform him of the additional references with the report, and she offered to fax him the copies. The defense attorney declined, saying he didn’t have a very good fax machine at home. Consequently, McKowan handed the additional reports to Weinberg at her first opportunity, Monday afternoon at 1.

McKowan countered it had taken her one or two hours to read the reports herself.

Judge Beth Labson Freeman denied the request, and the expert witness will testify as scheduled on Friday. This expert witness will testify about “seven red flags” of child molestation exhibited by the doctor’s former patients.

The final issue was replacing of one of the jurors. This juror claimed she’d spoken to her spiritual advisor and family and come to the conclusion that she would be unable to “judge” anyone. Besides, she noted, her husband had been laid off from his job this past Thursday and her own job pays for a limited amount of jury duty.

The judge questioned the woman, who looked to be of Pacific Islander descent. Judge Freeman was very much bothered by the fact the juror spoke to anyone about the case. The juror denied she’d offered specifics of the case, but the judge granted the woman’s request to leave the jury. Actually the woman was excused for speaking about the case before it was completed and speaking about it to her family and spiritual advisor.

The jury is made up of three white males, one Asian American female, two Latina females, and six white females (two may be of Middle Eastern descent). The five alternates include 1 African American female, one Asian American male, and three white females.

The defendant is not a well man. His health problems have been well-chronicled but to this writer’s eye, his coloring looks like a person with cancer—cachexic, pale with gray undertones. Since his arrest in 2005, he has gone from unaided ambulation to ambulation with a cane and now a walker.

McKowan delivered her opening arguments from the top of her head, with no notes, moving about in the courtroom, always facing the jury. She speaks in a loud and clear voice, and speaks quickly. This case will consist of the testimony of six in-statute victims, and three out-of-statute victims will provide corroborating testimony. There are ten counts of lewd acts against a child—and each count must stand on its own merit.

She previewed the testimony of each man. No surnames will be used (you will shortly read about how long that lasted.) Their stories are all similar in that there was no medical reason given for the exam, and most did not tell their parents or anyone they’d been molested.

The history of this case is well-documented and won’t be repeated here (though there may be a revised entry posted when I have more time to write). The bottom line is none of the men know each other, or even knew of each other. One of the young men, when contacted by the police, thought he was the only victim of Ayres, and was relieved to know he wasn’t the only one.

McKowan stated that the boys had been sent to Ayres solely for behavioral issues, NOT physical issues. However, the doctor told the boys that the physical exam was routine, and reminded them that he was an M.D. There were no privacy drapes provided for the boys, the exams were not done in what most of us think of as an exam room with a proper exam table.

Sometimes there were multiple physicals. Sometimes the boys reported a long touch. Others reported fondling, outright masturbation, and even ejaculation.

The doctor cautioned the boys to tell no one about the undressing or the physical exam.

There was no attention given to the boys’ modesty. There was no explanation offered to the boys or the parents as to why a physical exam was needed. There was no report of the physical exam made available to the parents.

To contrast, Weinberg used notes and a podium to deliver his opening arguments. He refuted each witness’ potential testimony, offering explanations as to why they were they were not believable or erroneous in their memories. He slipped up and called three of the men by their surnames, and as McKowan objected, Weinberg basically said “oops.” Mind you, he was reading notes, so he wrote those names down in his notes!

Weinberg characterized Dr. Ayres as physician of “extraordinary skill,” an “open and honest sex educator advocate,” an “independent thinker of courage,” who treated the whole person—including a physical exam, and believed that the physicals were needed.

There were two witnesses today: the mother of one of the young men, and Orion, a former patient of Ayres.

I found her to be a credible witness for this reason: she may not have had an impeccable memory to the smallest detail, but why would she? She and her husband believed Orion needed the psychiatric therapy for his ADD/ADHD and his learning difficulties. They utterly trusted the school administration and the school nurse when they recommended Orion see Dr. Ayres. They had no reason to be suspicious of the well-recommended doctor’s abilities.

Orion’s mother was not aware of the abuse until her son turned 21.

Neither Orion or his parents are seeking a civil judgment from the doctor.

Next, Orion testified. A handsome, well spoken young man, he was asked to identify the defendant and he was unable to sustain a gaze to describe what Ayres was wearing, and broke down crying as he described the doctor. Orion was sent to the doctor for (presumably) assessment for ADD or ADHD. However, Orion also Kleinfelter's syndrome (xxy), a chromosomal defect that affects 1 in 1000 men, though most men do not have any physical signs of the disorder. Orion is one such individual. His parents knew about his Kleinfelters only because of an amniocentesis. His only manifestation of the disorder is learning difficulties. When Orion presented to Dr. Ayres at the age of 9, he did not know he had Kleinfelter’s, nor was it one of the presenting complaints. The chief complaint was “not paying attention in class.”

Orion’s testimony was chilling. At his first visit, he recalls a conversation between the doctor, both parents and himself, though he doesn’t remember 100 percent of the conversation because it was “grown-up stuff.”

After the initial visit in the waiting room, Ayres told Orion’s parents that he needed some private time with their son, took Orion by the hand and took him into the inner office, which consisted of a table, a sofa, file cabinets and some toys and puppets. “I felt safe,” the young man reported.

“I sat on that couch,” said the young man. He says the doctor asked him to come to him in the dark corner away from the window. They played with models for a few minutes and the boy felt safe, the doctor asking with how things were with his parents. Soon the doctor told Orion he needed to check his heart rate, and took out a stethoscope. The stethoscope was placed under the boy’s clothing, and he helped by lifting his shirt. The doctor then said “why don’t you just take that off?” At that point the doctor touched the boy on the chest, and then said something about his pants. Orion had difficulty with the pants, and the doctor asked if he could help. The boy agreed, thinking this was in order. He pulled his pants and underwear to his ankles, and the doctor was sitting on a wheeled exam stool, facing the child.

“That’s when he touched me,” he said, crying as he described what happened.

Orion saw Dr. Ayres three times that he can recall, and all three times his clothing were removed and his genitals touched.

Cross-examination thus far has been working toward discrediting the young man, suggesting he is exaggerating what happened. The defense attorney speaks mumbly and throws numbers and dates around in such a manner that anyone would be confused.

Testimony tomorrow picks up with Orion. To honor this brave young man, the photo I’ve posted is of the constellation Orion.

I will write more about the miscarriage of justice done to Victoria Balfour and KGO-TV when I have more time to write. Suffice it to say I believe there are HUGE First Amendment rights being broken in both cases, and this case could and should be pursued because of the chilling effect it may have on professional journalists.

Also check out the William Ayres Watchdog blog.

Opening statements begin in Ayres trial

Local doctor's molestation trial begins

One accuser decides to drop out of Ayres trial


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is heart wrenching, what a horrible thing for Orion and every day more trajedy comes to light about this case.

How William Ayres can sit there and say this never happened or was proper for him to do.

This is day one and just very sad.

I commend the victims for speaking out in public they have no idea how this will help other parents.

I just wish Ayres had been stopped a long time ago.

I hope he is found guilty and he spends the remainder of his pathetic life in prison.

Anonymous said...

Great Story Sprocket. Your story is so much better than the mainstream media's.

What a sick bastard that Ayres is.

Sprocket said...

Let's give credit where credit is due. CaliGirl9 went to court to cover this case. The kudos are all hers.

donchais said...


Great coverage - thank you.

"The defense attorney speaks mumbly and throws numbers and dates around in such a manner that anyone would be confused."

Sounds like Weinberg continues with the same MO.

Calling some of the witnesses by their surnames was just despicable and underhanded!

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I meant great story Caligirl !!! We know you had to take public transportation to get to the courthouse and we hope it was worth it.

Your story should be printed in the mainstream press.

ritanita said...

Thank you CaliGirl for covering this trial.

I see Weinberg is up to all his tricks. Mumble, mumble, confuse, confuse. Humiliate the witness if you can, oops! moments.

My heart goes out to the men and their families. They have all suffered terribly and this trial will not make that go away. A touch of justice will help, though.

Victoria Balfour is getting the Weinberg "royal treatment." It's outrageous!

Liz said...

Just amazing that children were recommended by schools and pediatricians to this man & no-one in authority followed up what was happening.

It seems Weinberg likes to mumble and likes to have his clients appear very old and fragile. As for complaining about the timely receipt of reports from the prosecution - after Spector - definitely a case of pot and kettle.

Many thanks for the great reporting - and the links Caligirl

Bill said...

I have followed your posts for some time now, Sprocket! I work with sexually abused and follow the trials you cover. Thanks for the time you take to bring us your perspective first hand. I read you regularly.

Sprocket said...

Hi Bill,

Thank you for reading T&T! I like to give credit where it's due. It's the other wonderful T&T ladies who have covered the child abuse/murder stories:

ritanita: Everything regarding the Casey Anthony case

donchais: Everything in Jersey and a few other cases

CaliGirl9: Ayres molestation case.

These ladies work hard, spending many hours researching a case they're covering. I've only covered Spector and the Miura case in-depth.