Competency hearing for former child psychiatrist Ayres gets under way

S.F. Examiner File PhotoDr. William Ayres' competency hearing began Friday and is expected to go on through Wednesday.

A competency hearing for an 80-year-old psychiatrist accused of molesting boys during examinations in the 1990s began Friday and is expected to continue through Wednesday or Thursday, prosecutors said.

William Ayres, a former president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, was returned to San Mateo County in August to stand trial after spending nine months under observation at Napa State Hospital.

Prosecutors allege that doctors and staff there detected signs that Ayres had exaggerated symptoms of dementia in order to appear incompetent.

Ayres faces nine counts of performing lewd acts on seven boys during counseling sessions that took place between 1991 and 1996.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe has said Ayres is suspected of molesting as many as 30 other boys, but that the cases are now beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution.

A trial to determine Ayres’ competency ended in a mistrial in June 2011, when jurors could not agree on whether the defendant, who appeared to be suffering from dementia, would be able to assist in his own defense.

Based on the contents of a sealed report from Napa State Hospital, prosecutors now allege that Ayres used his extensive knowledge of psychiatry to fake symptoms of mental illness and mislead court-appointed doctors.

A criminal trial in 2009 also ended with a hung jury, and the District Attorney’s Office decided within months to retry the case.

Defense attorneys began presenting their case Friday in the competency hearing before Judge John Grandsaert and are expected to wrap up today, Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said Friday.

Prosecutors are expected to begin presenting their case this afternoon and could continue through Wednesday or Thursday.

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