Thursday, June 25, 2009

William Ayres - Pedophile Child Psychiatrist Trial Begins

“Justice has been a long time coming”

Opening statements began Tuesday morning in San Mateo County Superior Court in the trial of a once-prominent San Mateo child psychiatrist accused of molesting several young patients in the 1990s.

William Ayres, 77, sat quietly at the defense table throughout statements by prosecuting attorney Melissa McKowan, who called Ayres a pedophile, and Ayres' defense attorney Doron Weinberg, who argued his client did not act inappropriately.
Ayres, a former president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is charged with 10 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 14 for allegedly molesting six boys between ages 9 and 13 from 1988 to 1996.
He was arrested in April 2007 and has been free on $750,000 bail.

McKowan told jurors Tuesday morning that six witnesses will testify against Ayres. She said four other men whose claims fall outside the statute of limitations will also address the court but that it is up to the jurors whether their testimony can be used as evidence.

McKowan said the six witnesses who will testify were children with behavioral issues who sought treatment from Ayres, and were disturbed by the alleged requests he made of them during what he told them were routine medical examinations.

"The boys were simply asked to remove their clothing, and the doctor began to touch, fondle, molest and masturbate their penises and testicles," McKowan said.
"The doctor regularly conducted physical exams," she added. "The boys thought they must submit."

McKowan said Ayres asked one of the alleged victims if he wanted Ayres to determine what stage of puberty he was in.

"The boy said, 'No thanks,'" McKowan said. But during another session, the boy said he had a pain in his side and Ayres offered to examine him, she said.

"The doctor told him to take off his pants" and began massaging his groin area, McKowan said. The boy "completely freaked out."

McKowan said another alleged victim was 9 years old when Ayres "masturbated him to an erection and told him not to tell anyone."

Ayres allegedly told a third alleged victim, who had problems with bed-wetting, to let Ayres watch him urinate, McKowan said.

"He justified what the doctor was doing because of the bed-wetting," she said. "The doctor watched him urinate."

Some of the alleged victims told their parents what happened, and some did not mention it until San Mateo police contacted them during the police investigation, McKowan said.
Nonetheless, she said, the witnesses' accounts are accurate and credible.

"Their credibility is based not on what they have done in the past, but based on what they saw," McKowan said.
"These were not legitimate medical examinations, but a ruse of a pedophile to look at and molest little boys," she added.
Weinberg began his opening statements by acknowledging that the examinations occurred, but denying that Ayres molested the boys.

He said Ayres believed that it was a psychiatrist's duty to treat the whole person, including by conducting physical examinations.

Weinberg emphasized that practices in place 50 years ago—Ayres received his medical license in 1956 -- may not be as common today due to a change in culture.

"There will be evidence that puts (the claims) in a completely different frame," Weinberg said.
He said the alleged victims "elaborated and exaggerated simple medical procedures."

The patients, he added, "were young people with emotionally psychiatric conditions."
He also stressed that their memory of events should be questioned because of the amount of time between when the alleged crimes took place and when they came forward with their claims.

"The majority of witnesses didn't say anything for years," Weinberg said. "Then they came forward when prodded by external events."
The prosecution has long held that Ayres abused dozens and dozens of former patients over the course of 30 years but the statute of limitations prevents criminal charges before 1988. Instead, four of those men, including the person who filed the 2002 police complaint which started the investigation, will testify for the prosecution to prove Ayres’ alleged propensity to offend.

Ayres has maintained his innocence but did settle a civil suit in 2005 with a patient not included in the criminal case. News coverage of that suit by Steven Abrams led to Thomas C. (All alleged victims aside from Steven Abrams are identified in court only by their first name and last initial) calling San Mateo police that August but his case, too, was too old. San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callagy, spurred by those two cases and another in 1987 by Greg H., took the “extraordinary step” of obtaining a search warrant for Ayres’ home, business and storage locker because he was still practicing medicine, McKowan said. Information from 800 patient files seized in March 2006 led to three victims ages 9 to 12 that fell within the statute and subsequent publicity drew out dozens more. Four from that batch were also charged.

Ayres’ medical license was suspended and he was ultimately arrested. In a “freak coincidence,” McKowan said, one of Ayres’ alleged victims saw Ayres at the courthouse during his arraignment because he was in custody himself. The alleged victim, without benefit of newspapers or Internet while jailed, knew exactly why his former doctor was there, she said.

Others had even told therapists and loved ones about the touching before Ayres was ever arrested, McKowan said.

McKowan told jurors she will call a child sexual abuse expert from the San Mateo Medical Center’s Keller Center to explain why abused children return to their abusers and don’t immediately tell. A San Francisco child psychiatry professor will testify about red flags in the former patient’s files.

Ayres listened to opening statements dressed in a dark blue suit as his wife and son sat behind him. A number of the alleged victims’ family members — fixtures at a number of previous court hearings in the case — filled the courtroom and at least one mother nodded along as McKowan told jurors how the boys were ordered by parents to behave and listen to the doctor during treatment.

The observers did not want to speak on the record about the case but all questioned echoed relief the trial is underway.

“Justice has been a long time coming,” said one woman.

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