SAN MATEO (CBS SF) — After years of legal wrangling, Dr. William Hamilton Ayres, an 81-year-old former San Mateo psychiatrist accused of molesting boys during examinations in the 1990s, admitted to the charges against him Thursday.
Ayres pleaded no contest to eight felony molestation charges just four days into jury selection in his second trial in San Mateo County Superior Court. His first trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial in 2009.
A wheelchair-bound Ayres, who for years has professed his innocence, changed his plea just after 2 p.m. Thursday in Judge Beth Labson Freeman’s courtroom.
San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan Thursday dismissed a ninth felony count against Ayres, who also admitted to special allegations attached to each of the other eight counts.
He clearly stated “Admit!” when asked about each special allegation.
Ayres is facing a maximum of 22 years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 6. Freeman, who was the judge in Ayres’ first trial, has scheduled a half-day hearing to allow all victims to speak.
A former president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Ayres was arrested on April 6, 2007, at his San Mateo home.
Ayres was charged with nine counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 for allegedly inappropriately touching five boys who had come to him for counseling in the early 1990s.
Prosecutors say the molestations involved the fondling of young patients during “medical” examinations while they were in counseling sessions with Ayres, during a period between 1991 and 1996. The boys were between the ages of 9 and 13 at the time, according to McKowan.
Prosecutors had identified a total of 45 other alleged victims, but the statute of limitations made it impossible to try those cases, McKowan said. At least three of those alleged victims died before knowing today’s outcome.
McKowan expressed relief at the end of Thursday’s proceedings, and said she sent the five victims an e-mail at lunchtime to pass along the news.
“I am very happy that the victims didn’t have to go through another trial and I am thrilled that this seven-year ordeal has come to an end,” McKowan said. “I am extremely happy that justice is finally done for the victims.”
McKowan believes it was the prosecution’s “airtight case” that motivated the change of plea. She said that following the 2009 mistrial, she and San Mateo police Detective Rick Decker interviewed jurors in that trial and contacted numerous witnesses from Ayres’ background.
Defense Attorney Jonathan McDougall said he had no comment on Ayres’ no-contest pleas. He said he plans to speak after Ayers is sentenced.
According to the district attorney’s office, Ayres had a thriving practice treating children patients from the 1960s to 2006. He was also called upon to evaluate hundreds of cases, including involving sex offenders, in San Mateo County juvenile court going back to the 1970s.
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