County strips psychiatrist of lifetime achievement award

June 7, 2013

As a show of support to his victims, county supervisors unanimously stripped former San Mateo child psychiatrist William Hamilton Ayres of a lifetime achievement honor awarded 11 years ago just as police were launching the child molestation investigation that would ultimately end this year with a conviction on several felonies.

Ayres, 81, pleaded no contest in May to eight counts of molestation connected to five male former patients between the ages of 9 and 13 under the guise of medical exams. He faces between eight and 22 years in prison when sentenced in August and, shortly after his plea change, Supervisor Dave Pine requested his county honor be reversed.

Friends and advocates of Ayres’ victims have pushed various supervisors for years to make the unusual move of rescinding an action by the prior board which had honored the once-prominent doctor for work including referrals by the county and courts. On Tuesday, a few took turns expressing both gratitude for Pine’s recommendation and offered some insight to the board of what it has been like waiting for justice from the initial crimes decades ago through three trials, Ayres’ mental commitment and finally his decision to resolve the case and face prison.

One victim, referred to as J.D., overcame alcoholism sparked by his 1972 molestation at age 11 by Ayres but killed himself in August 2011 after public news of the allegations sank him back into a hard place, family friend Jonathan Huddleston told the board.

“This type of crime is the deepest, darkest side of humanity,” Huddleston said.

Prior to his 2007 arrest, Ayres was well-known as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and for hosting the sex education series “Time of Your Life.” Ayres also received juvenile court referrals, all of which contributed to the Board of Supervisors in January 2002 adopting the resolution honoring his “efforts to improve the lives of children and adolescents.”

But the board didn’t know that behind the “facade of accomplishment” was a “child predator” with upward of 50 alleged victims, Pine said.

Most of the victims fell outside the statute of limitations and prosecutors were left charging Ayres originally with abusing six patients between 1988 and 1996. After his 2009 trial hung and Ayres returned from Napa State Hospital where doctors concluded he was exaggerating dementia to avoid a second trial, prosecutors dropped one count out of concern about a victim’s testimony.

Pine said while the board’s revocation in no way fixes the past, it can at least correct the mistake of previous leaders who unknowingly lauded Ayres.

The families “have gone through so much pain and I wish, I wish we could do more to help but hopefully our action here today along with his conviction will bring some sense of closure and assist the families in the healing process,” Pine said.

Along with thanking the board, speakers yesterday also highlighted victims advocate Victoria Balfour who worked tirelessly on their behalf to see Ayres to justice after learning a man who came to her for journalism career advice in 2002 had been abused by the psychiatrist. She later felt shock to find out the doctor was still practicing and “sheer horror” to learn of his psychiatric association presidency. Balfour, who traveled from New York state for yesterday’s meeting and has no other connection to the county other than the Ayres case, pushed police and prosecutors to arrest and try him.

Her “dedication to see that justice is done has been a ray of hope for the many victims of this criminal,” an unidentified victim’s mother wrote in a statement read by board President Don Horsley.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, the then-supervisor who introduced the 2002 ordinance, wrote in an email to the Daily Journal his hope the rescission “will bring some sense of closure to the victims and their families.”

San Mateo state Sen. Jerry Hill, who also sat on the board at the time, previously told the Daily Journal he too endorses Pine’s request.

Ayres’ defense attorney, Jonathan McDougall, did not respond to a request for comment about the board action.

Source: Michelle Durand, "San Mateo County honor stripped from former doctor William Hamilton Ayres," San Mateo Daily Journal, June 5, 2013.


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