Judge slashes accused doctor’s bail to $250,000 

Prosecutors expressed shock as the bail amount for William Ayres, the reputable child psychiatrist who faces 14 counts of sexual misconduct involving three young boys, was dramatically reduced Friday from $1.5 million to $250,000.

The reduction in bail, set by Judge Thomas McGinn Smith, chagrined Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan. She cited the more than 20 alleged victims who have come forward against Ayres for alleged sex crimes that have spanned three decades.

"I’m very shocked that the court at this time and this early in the case would reduce bail less than 24 hours after a warrant" for his arrest in the amount of $1.5 million was approved by another judge, McKowan said. "The facts of this case will be revealed. Everyone will see that this is a very egregious case."

Ayres, 75, was arrestedwithout incident Thursday at his San Mateo home for the alleged molestation of three boys, aged 9, 11 and 12 years old at the time, who were his patients from 1991 to 1996.

The arraignment, scheduled for Friday, was delayed until next Wednesday because Ayres’ defense attorney, Jim Collins, was absent. Ayres, remaining stoic and not speaking during the court proceedings, appeared Friday in an orange jumpsuit as his substitute defender, Vincent O’Malley, told the judge that Ayres’ health was deteriorating.

"He has no prior criminal history whatsoever," said O’Malley, who added that Ayres suffers from pulmonary issues and spinal problems and might require surgery. "He is currently no threat to flee. The allegations are from no later than 1995."

Ayres faces 112 years in prison if the charges run consecutively, McKowan said.

The alleged victims were discovered during a four-year investigation by San Mateo police, which included interviewing hundreds of Ayres’ past patients. Ayres has long denied sexual abuse accusations.

Two years ago, Ayres settled a lawsuit with an unnamed 40-year-old man, who claimed he was victimized in the 1970s. Subsequently, Ayers sold his Oakdale Drive home in Hillsborough for nearly $2.4 million before moving to his luxury apartment on San Mateo Drive. There was no answer at his residence Wednesday.

McKowan said many of the alleged victims who’ve stepped forward during the investigation but are not part of the criminal charges were patients from the 1970s and ’80s, beyond the statute of limitations.

"We are still getting referrals from people as of today," she said. "We have numerous victims who fall outside the [statute of] limitations."

She said the alleged victims who fall outside the statute of limitations may appear at trial to testify and could file civil action.

Ayres was a nationally renowned child psychiatrist as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the early 1990s. He served on the county’s Children and Families First Commission and was given a lifetime achievement award by the county in 2002.

"Anytime you have a psychiatrist who is treating adolescent boys, who have the need to get treatment, clearly those are the people more vulnerable than any other," McKowan said.

As of press time, Ayres had not posted bail and was still in custody in county jail.

bfoley@examiner.com

Staff writer Kate Williamson contributed to this report.

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