The long-running case of a prominent San Mateo child psychiatrist accused of molesting young patients could be resolved in court today, prosecutors said.
William Ayres, 79, was once president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. But in 2007, the doctor was charged with nine counts of performing lewd acts on seven boys during counseling sessions that took place between 1991 and 1996.
Ayres to be sent to mental hospital. For the latest on this story, go here.
Prosecutors believe he also molested more than 30 other victims on dates that are beyond the statute of limitations.
The case has lumbered in the courts for four years with no clear sign of resolution. As the time passed, the aging Ayres’ mental health has allegedly declined, sparking the probability that he is no longer competent to participate in his own defense, according to attorneys.
Ayres’ criminal trial in 2009 ended in a hung jury, with the majority of jurors in favor of conviction. At the time, prosecutor Melissa McKowan said she was “disappointed” at the result and felt “terrible for the victims.” She hoped to retry the case.
But McKowan’s bid for a retrial was delayed after Ayres’ attorney said his client showed signs of dementia. That led to a trial to determine whether Ayres is mentally fit to stand trial, which, again, ended in mistrial. Jurors deadlocked 8-4, with the majority saying he was incompetent.
Still, prosecutors argued that memory loss did not necessarily mean he couldn’t participate in his own defense. They said he could testify at his own speed and keep a personal record in order to remind himself of what occurred during trial proceedings.
A retrial of Ayres’ competency case is set to begin today. However, it appears that even prosecutors are considering resolving the case rather than going back to court.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told The San Francisco Examiner that prosecutors and defense attorney Jonathan McDougall were discussing the possibility of resolving the legal proceedings.
He declined to reveal any details about the talks.
“We’re ready to proceed to trial on [today] if need be,” Wagstaffe said.
The trial focused largely on physical exams Ayres conducted on his patients. Alleged victims younger than 14 testified the doctor groped them.
Ayres admitted to performing physical exams in which the boys were naked from the waist down, but testified that nothing inappropriate happened.
Bay City News contributed to this report.
The wending legal case against child psychologist William Ayres is headed back to the courtroom Monday.
April 2007 William Ayres arrested after a four-year investigation into allegations he molested dozens of boy patients dating back to the late 1960s. He later posted $750,000 bail.
2008 His trial is delayed partly so his attorney at the time, Doron Weinberg, could handle the Phil Spector murder trial in Los Angeles.
July 2009 Mistrial declared on all counts, with the jury split 11-1 in favor of guilty on four of the counts. On the other five counts, the votes ranged from 10-2 to 7-5 in favor of guilty.
August 2009 San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office announces it will retry the case.
March 2010 Ayres’ new attorney Jonathan McDougall questions competency of Ayres, saying he shows signs of dementia. Court orders two doctors to examine him.
June 2011 Mistrial declared in the competency trial, with the majority of jurors in favor of incompetent.
August 2011 Retrial on competency set to begin.