Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Out of Statute, But Not Out of Mind

Now that the jury has heard from the six men (and some of their parents) whose mental health therapy with now-retired child psychiatrist William Ayres resulted in years of mental anguish, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan will be tying things together with expert witnesses and with four out-of-statute victims.

Just because these four men will not get the satisfaction of having Dr. Ayres convicted for the genital exams they suffered (along with some pretty questionable “therapy”…) does not mean they have any less distress speaking of the unspeakable things they lived through. Monday’s testimony consisted of three of the good doctor’s former patients, and two parents.

Dr. Ayres is charges with 10 counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 14 years of age. Each charge could result in 3 to 8 years in state prison, and there is the possibility of a $10,000 fine for each guilty count.

Two of Monday’s bad acts witnesses are now in their mid- to late-30s; one is in his early 40s. One was referred to Dr. Ayres for “defiant behavior,” a second as additional therapy while undergoing “family therapy,” and the third for a (erroneously perceived) “suicidal ideation.”

Thus far none of the alleged victims are terribly bad hombres—they were boys with ADD or ADHD who were going through many of the growing pains both kids and parents suffer through at that age.

The testimony of Monday’s witnesses was a bit more chilling in that the men could recall some of the things they discussed with the doctor, and that the parents in two of the cases knew something was wrong, but their sons would not elaborate on what specifically had happened until many years later.

One former patient, in addition to having an unrequested “physical,” clearly recalls in his very first visit how Dr. Ayres initiated a conversation about sexual thoughts, eventually leading to a graphic conversation about the clitoris, where to find it, how to initiate foreplay with a girl, and how elastic the tissue in the vagina is and how far a penis can go into it.

Although he knew about the birds and the bees, at the time of this conversation, the boy was in 7th grade, and not anywhere near being sexually active!

“I had no idea why I was getting that talk.”

Unlike most of the other alleged victims, this boy did not get his physical exam until a subsequent visit. He did not ask for a physical, his parents were not informed of the results of the physical. The doctor told him the physical was to check his “general health.”

Remember what we learned from Dr. Lynn Ponton: Parents must make specific consent, and the child must assent, to any physical examination. Both the parents and the child must be given the “results” of the exam, and the child’s modesty must be ensured.

This man remembers the doctor listening to his chest and abdomen with a stethoscope, and palpating his thorax and belly, working his way down to the boy’s groin. He asked the boy to rise from the table (not a proper MD’s exam table!) and remove his underwear. Ayres then proceeded to check the boy for a hernia by pushing around his perineum and underneath his testes, asking him to cough.

After the exam, Dr. Ayres and the boy had their regular session, though the former patient can’t recall the specific content.

He was never sure that anything he’d undergone was illegal but he didn’t feel it was “right” either.

Interestingly, this same patient returned to Dr. Ayres when he got caught imbibing in alcohol at the age or 15 or 16. He clearly recalls getting NO physical exam of any type.

Another former patient has grown up to become a marriage and family therapist, having earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology. When asked to point Dr. Ayres out for the record, he clearly pointed toward the defense table.

This former patient did not get his “physical” at the first visit; he recalls it was his second or third visit, and he was lead to believe by the doctor was that it was just “something he did.”

The young man undressed in front of Ayres, putting his clothes in a pile. The doctor, who was sitting at his desk, asked the boy to approach, and Ayres proceeded to touch the boy’s arms and chest, saying nothing. Suddenly the doctor said he had to check the boy’s penis to make sure the “hole was in the center.” The alleged victim describes how the doctor pulled on his foreskin and pulled his penis straight up. When describing the motions made, this witness make “jerking off” movements.

“I was scared, scared me half to death. I went back for my clothes.” As politely as possible, the boy concluded the appointment, despite the doctor’s efforts to engage him in conversation.

He ran the 2 ½ miles home and announced to his astonished parents who were readying to pick him up from his appointment, “I never want to see him (the doctor) again. He’s sick. He’s dirty.” His parents were confused by his reaction, and tried to reassure him that a physical was normal. The boy was unable to really describe what had happened to him.

He did end up going back (“Because my parents asked me to.”), but did not fully participate in his therapy. “If I said nothing, he’d figure there was nothing to do.”

On cross-examination, defense attorney Doron Weinberg did make a couple of excellent points. This witness did see an article in the paper concerning the civil suit brought by Steven A., which was sent to him by his dad. By this point, he was fully reconciled that what had happened to him during “therapy” was wrong, and went to Craigslist to see if there were other victims of Ayres. He learned there was a phone number to call for the San Mateo police, and he followed up with a phone call.

Weinberg asked if this former patient has talked to any of the other victims in this case, or if he’d learned the circumstances of any other cases by making contact with the person who’d placed the Craigslist ad, freelance author Victoria Belfour. He denied he’d had any contact with any other victims, that he did not know the details of any other alleged molestations, and that no one had told him what to say—he’d told the police the truth.

Then Weinberg asked if he knew about being a mandated reporter. This former patient of Ayres is today a mandated reporter. Weinberg asked why he did not report Dr. Ayres once he’d learned he was a mandated reporter, and the man replied that he was more focused on the curriculum to become a mental health professional than the need to report his own molestation.

“I feel bad I did not report.”

This victim’s father did testify and did not bend to Weinberg’s cross-examination. The father testified that his son said, “Dr. Ayres is a dirty man,” after his very first appointment. He also reported that after one session, Dr. Ayres’ stated that his son “wants what he wants, when he wants it.”

The final two witnesses of the day were a now 39-year old man and his mom. This young man ended up in therapy because of a misperceived “suicide note.” A teacher has intercepted a love letter he’d written to a girl, and he ended the note with the quote “I would die 4 U.” If that sounds familiar, this incident happened in December 1984, and that phrase was from a song by Prince.

He was in no way suicidal; he’d been at the school for about a month and a half and the teachers didn’t know him very well.

The school board recommended the boy get therapy and referred him to Dr. Ayres.

This was not the first time this boy had seen a psychiatrist; he’d seen one when he was 4 or 5 years old, when he and his sister were adopted by their parents after having been in foster care.

On his very first appointment with the good doctor, he was brought into the office and was asked to remove his shirt and get up on the counter or table (it’s been described as both by previous witnesses). Dr. Ayres touched the boy’s arms up and down, and the boy was told the doctor was checking for track marks (the boy was not a drug abuser—remember, he was there for a “suicide note.”). He was visibly uncomfortable describing this, and it got worse.

Dr. Ayres asked the boy to lie back while he pressed down on the boy’s belly, working his way toward his pubic area. The boy was uncomfortable and moved the doctor’s hand away. Ayres assured the boy that this part of the exam was normal, and then pulled the boy’s pants and underwear down, taking his penis out, inspecting it with his left hand, and then tucked it back into his pants.

The boy then got dressed and the session began. He was terribly uncomfortable—“I’ve always been a very modest person,” the soft-spoken man said. For the remainder of his “therapy” with the doctor, he stayed guarded during all sessions. “I didn’t think other people would think it (what had happened during the physical exam) was a big deal.”

On what he remembers as his last visit, in May 1985, Dr. Ayres asked the boy to stand up and pull his pants down. “He said there was something he needed to check.” While the boy was standing, Dr. Ayres sat in a chair next to him and showed him photos of naked boys in what he believed was a medical text—it had captions beneath the photos, and the boys were just standing, not posed. The doctor turned the pages of the book with one hand, and with the other, held the boy’s penis in the palm of his hand for “more than one minute but less than two.”

The boy’s penis began to get erect. He pulled his pants up, embarrassed. “I was mortified.” The doctor continued the session by asking the boy if he masturbated, and how often. The remainder of that session consisted of sexuality questions.

“I just wanted to leave.”

A little over two years later, he was able to tell his mother everything. Through her own testimony, his mom, who was undergoing therapy of her own, told her therapist, who told her he was a mandated reporter, and by law had to report what she’d told him. She did receive follow-up call from San Mateo police, as did her son.

They heard no more. Strangely, the mom received a $1000 check from Dr. Ayres’ office, funds she was not expecting. When she queried the doctor’s office, she was told the refund was due to an accounting error. There was no way she was going to accept the blood money, and she turned the check over to San Mateo police.

What the jury did not hear (yet?) is that the check was lost by the police!

In 2004, the boy’s mother sent him a copy of an article about the civil case against Dr. Ayres. Upon reading the article, “I had a full-on panic attack, and it took me an hour to calm down.” He then got the name of the civil attorney in that case and contacted him, offering to help that case in any way he could. He told that attorney everything.

Knowing his own case was out of statute, he filed a complaint against Dr. Ayres with the medical board in 2005. “People have to know about this.”

This former patient does have a civil claim pending against Dr. Ayres. “There’s nothing else I can do—it’s about justice.”

Every witness today was utterly credible, in my eyes.

Testimony will continue on Wednesday with the last of the “prior bad acts” witnesses.

Readers please note: We will not approve off-topic posts. That means this is not the place to discuss Michael Jackson’s child molestation case and ultimately his death, among other things. This article is about the “alleged” victims of Dr. William Ayres, their courage, and their testimony in this trial.

Ayres Trial, Week Five, Day One: Ayres says to a Parent: "Isn't it a Lovely Day?"

Former patient testifies Ayres talked to him about sex, performed genital exam

More claim molestation by therapist

Ayres talked about sex, performed genital exam, ex-patient testifies

California Penal Code Section 288


ritanita said...

CaliGirl, such testimony as you report here breaks my heart. These men have so much courage to come forward and speak, as do their parents.

The Patient Advocate said...

Great reporting CaliGirl. Thanks for that.

I do not understand the part about Weinberg asking the witness from chilhood abuse to being a therapist now why he did not report this as a mandated reporter.

Was Weinberg trying to make some reference that in the time span of childhood to now that as soon as you graduate and become a therapist you report your OWN sexual abuse?

Would a mandated reporter be at fault for not reporting their own abuse as a child?

Taking about splitting hairs....I suppose many abuse victims become therapists or advocates because they feel they will have a deeper understanding as a survivor.

Weinberg must be desperate to point a finger at a victim as a mandated reporter and claim he didn't report his own abuse.

I sure hope someone makes reference to that when or if any of the colleagues of Ayres take the stand to testify to his character, that is IF they even do.

I have heard a good many stories that the partners knew of reported sexual abuse but did nothing.

So I hope that they get the same question tossed at them.....

CaliGirl9 said...

PA, I have no answer to your question. And now that you mention it, I hope the DDA finds a way to clarify if that witness had to be a mandated reporter on his own case! I think the witness gave an excellent answer though—I am hoping at least one of the jurors has a college education that was challenging and he or she can remember just how focused he or she was while earning that degree. That victim no doubt knew his education would be interrupted by an investigation if he self-reported. His way of healing was learning more about it and preventing it in from happening to other people.

And yes, I agree that the DDA had better find a way to throw the concept that the other doctors, nurses, social workers, anyone who referred a kid to his "care" was a mandated reporter!

The DDA might also want to bring up how many people actually worked in Ayres' office—was it just the good doctor maintaing his own appointment books, or did he have a receptionist? If so, where is that person? How many boys did she see leave that office in a hurry, shirts unbuttoned and untucked, not speaking and obviously upset?

Thank you for the positive dialogue.

Deep Sounding said...

I'll tell you what, reading these descriptions has really brought back some icky memories. I remember clearly the big things, but I'd forgotten some of the subtle details.

For example, when I talked to the police I didn't mention getting a "hernia exam", it was one of the more minor offenses, and I just didn't remember it, but upon reading witness testimony, it came flooding back, along with some specifics that aren't mentioned here, like how he positioned his hand, palm against my thigh, grasping it as he was doing the "exam." NO doctor has EVER done it this way since then. (Especially without a glove, and these days, you can't talk the doc into doing a hernia exam even when you know you've got a hernia...)

In some ways this is all very good... I struggle with "experts" talking about the whole "false memory" thing, and wonder if somehow I'm just screwed up. I've never discussed what happened in there with anyone (Other than relaying it to the police, who offered no feedback or pointed prompting), and so when I have this memory nudge about something I've forgotten, by someone else who experienced the same thing, and then it brings back this flood of very real memories, I feel very much relieved that I'm not crazy.

Imagine having to live with that guilty feeling every day.

OK.. I'm rambling and scattered now. I'll shut up.

Anonymous said...

Ayres had an office manager named Barbara Yee Grealish. Someone over at www.millspenisula.blogspot.com posted a comment that sounds like someone who works for him and has a deep knowledge of his finances and work habits:


On the $$ issue, ayres saved 20% of his gross earnings each year and invested it for retirement over his 45 -year career. He charged his patients a lot. I beleive he had quite some $$ saved up in his 401K.

However, his previous settlement must have cost him a lot. Otherwise, he would not had to sell his Hillsborough house. I know that house is his pride and joy.

The Bill Ayres I knew was arragant, demanding and narcissistic. Though I can't say whether he indeed committed the crimes. The fact that he turned around and sued his own group that always supported him was terrible. And it truely showed what kind of person he really is. I am horrrified that I was once associated with him. I despise him.

June 12, 2009 2:23 PM

Anonymous said...

Hey Trials and Tribulations -

You passed the 1 million mark in views today. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to thank Caligirl for her Herculean efforts in getting over to the Redwood City courthouse every day and then turning out spectacular pieces on the trial as soon as she gets home.

Those of us who have been following the case for years offer Caligirl our deepest thanks for covering this trial.

The Patient Advocate said...

Deep Sounding,

I don't think you are screwed up, in fact you are extremely smart!

What you probably have is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You have it but it doesn't have you.

I have it too. At first I just wondered how long it would take me to get over being so mad! That was the focal point of my PTSD. This anger that I would stuff down.

I have to tell you that sometimes I rememebr before I had PTSD I felt a lot lighter. Sometimes I wish I could go back and feel like I used to.

It comes and goes. There were days when I thought of nothing else and was a big day dreamer.

But now I am at about 8 years later. Somedays I am amazed at the way I was like a chihuahua stuck to the pant legs of the justice system. I never gave up.

Throw in being diagnosed with a rare disease that nobody knows anything about. It is a lot to live with. Worry about the future etc.

Do I think the PTSD will ever go away. No. Is it better yes.

The question is though are we all the total sum of all our experiences good and bad, I guess.

Did I ever think this was the way it would turn out - no.

But I am glad I never gave up.

I imagine you will have your days, the anger, the what if, the guilt, was this your fate, the why me.

I guess what I heard once was we can't control the radomness of the world. Bad luck.

I have PTSD and a rare incurable condition. It sucks.

I can imagine this case is bringing up a lot of issues you may not have dealt with.

I can and do have moments where I forget and I really love those!

Someday you might have those too. But I finally stopped blaming myself and stopped the guilt, cause something was done to us, we didn't have anything to do with it.

Anonymous said...

After the Spector trial I thought I was through with reading about criminal cases. However, the reporting and things I have learned from this case really make me realize why this site is becoming a "must read" for many. As it presents in- depth, compassionate and good factual material as well as gives a personal view. If there is bias it is honest bias and not really awful bias as you see in some blogs.

I doubt any newspaper or any other commercial news media would attempt to present this sort of information, by a careful and intelligent listener. This is very fine reporting, and groundbreaking, a new sort of news.

Thanks very much for all you are doing, it is, I am sure, appreciated by many readers. That it allows the readers to be more discriminating if they were to get on a jury is also of great benefit, I'm sure.

On another note I too agree that when someone gets a degree in psychotherapy that they probably wanted to work on their own issues as well. Further, I believe victims of sexual abuse suffer a lot of shame and usually don't talk about it at all but carry it with them, thus they suffer a lot,--- so it seems pretty normal that the victim wouldn't go out on a crusade against the venerable Dr. Ayres.

Are you able to describe any jury reactions to what is going on?

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

PA You asked if "Weinberg asking the witness from chilhood abuse to being a therapist now why he did not report this as a mandated reporter.

Was Weinberg trying to make some reference that in the time span of childhood to now that as soon as you graduate and become a therapist you report your OWN sexual abuse?

Would a mandated reporter be at fault for not reporting their own abuse as a child?"

That is exactly what Weinberg was implying. The good news for the victim witness is that San Mateo County has demonstrated several times already in this case alone that reporting sexual abuse by Ayres to the CPS will accomplish NOTHING.

We should change CPS to DPS. Doctor Protection Services.

The witness was brave and did the right thing.

Welcome to San Mateo County

Michael G. Stogner

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous June 30 at 11:26 pm:

The most intelligent looking juror - and also the most focused and intense- is a man who appears to be in his late 40s with grayish hair and wire rim glasses. Looks a bit like Steve Jobs. You can see how hard it is for him to take in all the details of the abuse.

One day after several victims had testified I saw this juror sitting outside on a break, bending over from the waist, his head down and doing deep breathing. You could see the weight of the victims' testimony weighing heavily on his shoulders.

Some jurors take diligent notes, while others - particularly a very heavy woman who has trouble walking - just sit there with a blank look. She worries us.

Anonymous said...

I heard that Ayres walked up to an in-statute victim who was waiting to testify and said "You should be a basketball player." Sickening. Sounded like a come on line. A complaint was made to the judge. With his remark to the mother of a victim "Isn't it a lovely day?" and now this, Ayres is becoming a loose cannon.
That arrogant "tude" ain't gonna get him anywhere in state prison.

The creep has no remorse.

CaliGirl9 said...

PA, you said everything I wanted to say to DS. I think he is incredibly brave. And I admire your own daily battle and bravery against PTSD. I have friends who fight this (at varying levels) and I hate being so utterly helpless to do anything but stand there and say “you are not alone.”

Anon @ 11:26:

I do try to watch the jury, but like so many others have said, trying to guess their behavior is like trying to play poker while blind. Difficult.

I sit by one of the out-of-statute victim’s mother. She does a bit more jury watching than I do, as I’m frantically scribbling notes and trying to maintain some direct quotes (easier said than done; I don’t know shorthand, I do journalist’s scribble!). But I can tell you this: The three men on the jury are active listeners and one is a voracious note-taker. There is one woman who was on her second notebook as of last Friday (testimony started Tuesday). There are a pair of young women who spend an awful lot of time looking at their fingernails (the mother is very concerned about these two). There is an older woman who looks utterly bored. Most listen attentively though a few will yawn and look away if things get repetitive.

All are “old enough” to be parents, and I’m sure there have to be jurors who are parents. Perhaps there is one who dealt with ADD/ADHD as a child or have their own ADD/ADHD kid. It’s a safe bet none have been molested or know anyone who was—I can’t imagine either side wanting to keep someone like that on the jury.

I have obligations here in Santa Clara County today so no court for me. I trust you will get an excellent recap of the testimony of the 4th out-of-statute “propensity to molest” witness later today from the Watchdog blog.

Trapellar said...

No court until Monday, July 6. The defense might finish up their case by the end of next week. Dang this trial is going much faster than they thought.

Anonymous said...

San Mateo Daily Journal has unlocked the original Dr. William Ayres Arrested thread. Thank You

Anonymous said...

http://www.millspeninsula.blogspot.com/ has a funny photo gallery of Dr. Ayres. Check it out.