Judge allows alleged victims’ testimony

The alleged victims of accused child molester William Ayres will be able to testify against the former child psychiatrist after an important ruling for the prosecution Thursday.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Norman Gatzert could have crippled the prosecution’s case, which Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan said would be based mostly on testimony of victims.

Ayres’ defense attorney, Doron Weinberg, in May filed a motion to suppress the alleged victims’ testimony, arguing the manner in which San Mateo police contacted the alleged victims was unconstitutional and violated doctor-patient confidentiality. Police used a search warrant to collect some 600 names of former 11- to 17-year-old patients of Ayres’ and began calling them looking for evidence, Weinberg said. Ayres is being charged with 20 counts of lewd acts with a minor under the age of 14.

“I am very confident we will get to trial and the dozens of men who were victimized by Dr. Ayres will have the opportunity finally to tell a jury what happened to them,” McKowan said.

The court found the need for the prosecution to use the information outweighed any minor intrusion into the alleged victims’ privacy, and that they had a right to come forward, McKowan said, reading from Gatzert’s decision given to her.

Ayres, 76, who walked slowly into the courtroom using a cane, sat quietly and did not speak as Gatzert delivered his lengthy written decision.

Weinberg said he would try to appeal the decision. He called San Mateo police’s method in obtaining Ayres’ former client list a “fishing expedition.”

“Because this is a high-profile case, Dr. Ayres has been convicted in the media as a child molester,” Weinberg said. “It’s very hard to get an objective judgment.”

Meanwhile, the date of Ayres’ trial remains uncertain. Both sides said last week they had agreed on a November trial date pending an unrelated homicide trial in Los Angelesfor one of Weinberg’s other clients that would start Sept. 29. McKowan is having surgery on her knee and will not return until Oct. 1.

Weinberg said in court Thursday he would like to move the trial date back to January, although it may be later depending on the results of the Los Angeles case. A tentative trial date of Jan. 5, 2009, was set Thursday.

“It’s time to get this show on the road,” said Victoria Balfour, who made the call to San Mateo police in April 2007 that jump-started the police’s investigation into Ayres.

Ayres, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year, is free on $500,000 cash bail.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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