San Jose Mercury News
Peninsula child psychiatrist sent to jail as his molestation victims applaud
By Joshua Melvin
August 7, 2013

Psychiatrist William Ayres

Psychiatrist William Ayres

REDWOOD CITY — Victims of convicted child molester William Ayres burst into applause Wednesday when a judge ordered the once-renowned child psychiatrist to begin serving his sentence behind bars.

As deputies pushed a thin, pale and emotionless Ayres, 81, in his wheelchair to jail from Judge Beth Labson Freeman’s San Mateo County Superior Courtroom, victims and their families hugged and rejoiced over the seeming end of the more than a decade-long struggle for justice that had at times appeared lost.

“When I saw him going away, it was like I finally felt like God was on my side,” 27-year-old Orion Brutoco, a former patient and victim, said outside court. “It was like finally someone saw that the right thing to do was to put him in jail.”

Ayres was to be sentenced Wednesday — he faces between eight and 22 years in prison — but Freeman delayed it until Aug. 26 due to some late paperwork. The sentence comes after the psychiatrist pleaded no contest in May to eight felony molestation charges leveled by five former patients he abused in his San Mateo office in 1980s and 1990s.

After the plea, Freeman said she would allow Ayres to remain free on $900,000 bail on the condition he be taken into custody Wednesday, the scheduled sentencing day. Despite a delay in sentencing, Freeman kept her word. Ayres has been behind bars at least twice since the case began in 2002, for a total of about four months.

“I don’t want the record to be confused,” the judge said. “My decision is based solely on the seriousness of the offense and the number of victims.”

Over decades, Ayres received hundreds of patient referrals from San Mateo County’s juvenile justice system, schools and other doctors. Prosecutors say they have found over 50 victims, but many of their accusations were decades-old and fell beyond the statute of limitations.

Defense attorney Jonathan McDougall left the court without addressing reporters and didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the jailing of his client. But he said in court Ayres plans to try to withdraw his no contest pleas to the molestation charges, but said no formal request has been filed.

Freeman’s decision came after emotional comments from victims and their family members, who were given a chance to speak because they won’t be able to attend the sentencing. Brutoco, in a statement punctuated with tears, told how he can’t trust male doctors and gets anxious when he’s below the type of fluorescent lights Ayres had in his San Mateo office. He also said the abuse he suffered when he was 9 sent his life spiralling into drug and alcohol abuse, as well as ruining his relationships with his family and others.

Through years of therapy Brutoco has said he has managed to right his life and recently graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu and is engaged to be married. Facing his abuser was the last step before slamming the door on this painful corner of his life.

“I’m came here today to meet evil one-on-one,” he said from the witness stand Wednesday,” and to express the power my voice has now.”

A jury deadlocked in 2009 on the charges against Ayres resulting in mistrial. What followed were years of legal fighting over whether he had Alzheimer’s-related dementia and if it had left him mentally incompetent for trial.

It appeared the defense won that fight in 2011 when the prosecution conceded Ayres wasn’t well enough to defend himself and he was committed to a state mental hospital, putting the case on indefinite hold.

Ayres was poised to be released to his home or a private care facility. But in the summer of 2012, a forensic psychiatrist at Napa State Hospital, after gathering evidence from Ayres’ daily interactions with staff, charged he had faked dementia.

A judge later agreed, saying the former head of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry used his experience and training to beat tests meant to catch fakers. Then last fall, the effort recommenced to bring Ayres back to trial.