San Francisco Chronicle
Respected child psychiatrist arrested on molestation charges
San Mateo doctor investigated in cases dating back to \’60s
By John Coté
A highly regarded child psychiatrist from San Mateo who once headed the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was arrested Thursday on 14 felony counts of child molestation, police said.
Dr. William Ayres, 75, was arrested at his San Mateo home at about 6 p.m. after a four-year investigation into allegations he molested boy patients dating back to the late 1960s.
\”The real tragedy here is that parents entrusted their children to this doctor for help and they were victimized while in his care,\” San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callagy said after the arrest. \”That\’s so tragic.\”
For decades, the psychiatrist with the ruddy face and reddish beard was a fixture in San Mateo County mental health and political circles.
He served with San Mateo County District Attorney Jim Fox and Supervisor Richard Gordon on the county\’s Children and Families First Commission, and in 2002, he was honored by the county board of supervisors with a lifetime achievement award for \”his tireless effort to improve the lives of children and adolescents.\”
During his long and distinguished career as a local child psychiatrist, he received patient referrals from the San Mateo County juvenile justice system.
From 1993 to 1995, he served as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the leading professional medical association for child psychiatrists with more than 7,500 members nationwide.
Callagy said the doctor did not resist arrest and was \”very stoic\” when officers arrived at his home Thursday night.
Prosecutors Thursday filed 14 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old against Ayres, Callagy said. He said the charges involved multiple victims, but he declined to give a specific number.
Ayres is being held in San Mateo County jail on $1.5 million bail and is expected to be arraigned today in a Redwood City courtroom.
The arrest follows years of accusations against the doctor that raised red flags but never amounted to a criminal case. It was only after San Mateo police received a complaint in 2002 that authorities obtained a search warrant in March 2006 for Ayers\’ medical records, police said.
The records produced a list of 800 names of former patients whose contact with Ayres could fall within current statutes of limitations, police said. Police interviewed the patients and identified alleged victims that led to the current prosecution, Callagy said.
Among some of the other accusations that are documented in public records but never led to criminal charges are the following:
— At least five men — none of them the alleged victims in the criminal case — claim in police reports, civil depositions and a Child Protective Services report that Ayres molested them in their youth.
— One of those former patients sued Ayres in December 2003, accusing the psychiatrist of masturbating him under the guise of a medical exam on multiple occasions in the late 1970s when the patient was 13 years old. The case was settled confidentially in 2005.
— Police investigated at least two other molestation reports against Ayres before the 2003 lawsuit, records and deposition transcripts show. One was determined to be \”unfounded\” in 1987, and the alleged victim in the other didn\’t cooperate with police, according to those records and statements.
— At least two other men came forward separately in 2005 saying Ayres had also molested them as teens in the 1960s and 1970s, but the cases could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired, police reports show.
One of those former patients, whose name was redacted from the report, told police he arrived early for an appointment one day and saw another teenage boy emerge from Ayres\’ office.
\”The victim said the look on the other boy\’s face was like, \’He\’s going to do it to you too,\’ \” the report read.
In the 2003 lawsuit, filed against Ayres and his medical group, Peninsula Psychiatric Associates, attorneys for the former patient accused the psychiatrist of exploiting his position of power and trust to prey upon young boys who were patients.
The lawsuit contended the alleged victim, referred to in court documents as James Doe, was not Ayres\’ first molestation victim. The lawsuit alleged \”there were at least four others, and possibly more.\”
The two sides reached a confidential settlement in July 2005, after which Ayres\’ attorney said the psychiatrist did not concede any wrongdoing.
Ayres said under oath he didn\’t remember the alleged victim and denied molesting him, according to a transcript of his deposition in the lawsuit.
\”It is very common that I\’ll be having lunch and a person in their 30s will come up to me and say, \’Aren\’t you Dr. Ayres? I wanted to thank you again for the help,\’ \” Ayres said in his deposition. \”I\’ll look at them, and I won\’t know who the hell they are. It turns out I saw them when they were in seventh grade.\”
Ayres also acknowledged he sometimes conducted physical examinations of juvenile patients, according to the transcript.
\”I do not think there is any standard of care that says it\’s inappropriate for a physician who is a child psychiatrist, that they should not do physical examinations,\” Ayres said, according to the transcript.
He said the county\’s juvenile justice system, its court-appointed attorney program, pediatricians and social workers all referred patients to him for years, and he estimated in 2004 that he had seen about 2,000 patients in 40 years of practice in the county.
He evaluated a patient referred by juvenile court Judge Marta Diaz as recently as March 2003, even though San Mateo police or the county social services department had received at least three complaints of molestation by that time, records show.