General Crime

Former San Mateo Psychiatrist William Ayres Sentenced To 8 Years For Molesting Child Patients

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A former San Mateo psychiatrist did not flinch when a San Mateo Superior Court judge sentenced him today to eight years in state prison for molesting boys who were patients of his in the 1990s. Judge Beth Labson Freeman handed down the sentence just before 4 p.m. following a long day of victim impact statements and an afternoon of pleading from Ayres’ wife, son and daughter. Ayres himself did not speak. Ayres was sentenced to eight years concurrent for each of the eight counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child 14 or younger, which means he will serve all the sentences at the same time. He must also register as a sex offender for life and pay a $10,000 fine to the Victim Witness Assistance Fund. Based on time served, Ayres will likely be behind bars for nearly six years. “My conclusion is based on the fact that you violated the innocence of young boys in your care,” Freeman said before she delivered her sentence. Ayres and his family, seated behind him in the front row of the courtroom, did not react to the sentence. The 81-year-old wheelchair-bound Ayres was wearing red jail-issued clothing and was wheeled out by a bailiff. His family exited the courtroom rather quietly and nonchalantly. Ayres’ defense attorney Jonathan McDougall, who has worked on the case since 2009, said he thought Judge Freeman did the best she could in following the law. “This has been an extremely difficult case. There are a large number of people who felt victimized; Ayres felt victimized by the system; the family felt their husband and father had been victimized,” McDougall said. He said that he would file a notice of appeal but that an appellate attorney would take it on thereafter. He also noted that there could be a restitution hearing, should any victim believe they are owed money.

The emotional day began with victim impact statements from 15 victims or loved ones, who shared their stories of how the actions of the then-revered doctor negatively impacted the course of their adult lives. The later portion of the afternoon was reserved for Ayres’ family to speak on his behalf. Barbara Ayres called her father innocent and honorable and used much of her time addressing the court discussing the issue of memories and how details differ in long-term memories, calling into question witness and victim accounts. She called the allegations against her father a “scapegoat,” adding, “adolescents rarely go to psychiatrists because they’re happy.” The former doctor’s wife, Solveig Ayres, spoke on her longtime husband’s behalf, stating that he did conduct physical exams when needed, but said he was not “touchy feely.” Solveig Ayres said that after knowing Ayres for 50 years she knew him thoroughly enough to know his character and that she believed he was not capable of the allegations against him. Ayres rarely looked up as people read or voiced their statements. His white hair disheveled, Ayres looked forward for most of the day, rarely glancing to the side to meet eyes with some of his victims who chose to stand and deliver their account rather than take a seat on the witness stand. Two days in to his second jury trial, on May 16, Ayres pleaded no contest to eight counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 for allegedly inappropriately touching five boys who had come to him for counseling in the early 1990s. He was remanded into custody on Aug. 7. Prosecutors believe the alleged molestations involved fondling of young patients during “medical” examinations while in counseling sessions with Ayres during a period of 1991 to 1996. The boys were between the ages of 9 and 13 at the time, according to prosecutors.

Ayres had a thriving practice treating children patients from the 1960s to 2006, according to the district attorney’s office. He was also called upon to evaluate hundreds of cases, including sex offenders, in San Mateo County juvenile court going back to the 1970s. This morning, with four armed sheriff’s officers standing beside Ayres, victim Thomas C. wearing black thick-rimmed glasses took his turn to address the court. With his eyes focused on Ayres, Thomas C. referred to Ayres as a serial pedophile who was much like a wolf spider. “You look like a wolf spider — you don’t even know how many children you caught in your web … serial pedophile,” he said. Thomas C., now a psychiatrist himself who focuses on helping adolescents, ended his statement with, “You are going where all the other wolf spiders go to die.” Many spoke of the societal responsibility Ayres had to these children who, at the time of their molestations, were in desperate need of help, not further abuse. Victim Carl F. spoke at length about Ayres’ proven knowledge on the life-altering effects that sexual abuse has on children. He read excerpts from a paper that Ayres co-authored titled, “Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused,” which appeared in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 1997. Carl F. was 9 years old when he went to see Ayres because his parents thought he seemed depressed. He said he has long suffered from fear and guilt because he wasn’t able “to stop him from molesting little boys.” The abuse he suffered, he said, has impacted most aspects of his life and is evident in his relationships with his wife and 11-year-old son. “He knew the damage he was doing to these children and he doesn’t care,” Carl F. said.

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