A prominent former child psychiatrist who is accused of molesting young patients — and, more recently, of faking a mental illness in order to avoid prosecution — will learn Wednesday if he will be allowed to be freed on bail.
Last year, prosecutors said 80-year-old William Ayres was likely suffering from dementia and might never be competent enough to be retried on accusations dating back to the 1990s. Instead of a courtroom, the San Mateo psychiatrist was sent to Napa State Hospital for nine months.
The sentencing was a blow to the families of the victims after years of legal battles. Ayres allegedly molested seven youths, ages 8 to 13, during counseling sessions between 1991 and 1996. He also is suspected of molesting more than 30 others on occasions that are now beyond the statute of limitations.
Prosecutors nearly secured a guilty verdict at a 2009 trial, with all but one juror in favor of conviction on four of nine counts. Afterward, the retrial process dragged on and attorneys on both sides agreed Ayres had been experiencing the onset of dementia.
But in a stunning turn of events in late July, a report from Napa State Hospital doctors, which has been sealed from public view, claimed Ayres has been faking mental illness, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan said.
The past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry had used his extensive medical knowledge to fool doctors, McKowan said during a bail hearing Friday.
Ayres has been moved from Napa to San Mateo County Jail, where he is being held on no-bail status. He is scheduled to appear in court again Wednesday, where a judge will decide whether to set a bail amount. Leading up to the hearing, the judge will research whether he can legally set a bail amount in Ayres’ case, according to prosecutors.
That Ayres might have been faking his dementia does not surprise a group representing those who claim to be victims. Before his admission to the Napa hospital, a group hired a private investigator to tail Ayres, who was seen chatting with pals at a San Francisco restaurant.
“Medical colleagues of Ayres tipped them off in June 2011 that Ayres was mentally competent,” victims group advocate Victoria Balfour said. “They had seen him hanging out in restaurants in San Francisco, holding court and expounding lucidly on all sorts of topics.”
The victims group is now trying to get the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office thrown off the case.
On Oct. 2, a judge is scheduled to rule on whether Ayres is indeed competent to be retried.