Justice for alleged molestation victims postponed

Another delay in the trial of a former child psychiatrist who is accused of molestation has families of the alleged victims fuming.

Despite a partial victory for prosecutors in the Dr. William Ayres molestation case Friday, the trial has now been delayed another five months.

“We’re just frustrated,” said the mother of one alleged victim outside of court. “He has a right to a speedy trial. Why don’t the victims’ families?”

The trial, which was set to begin June 23, will likely start sometime in November, said Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan.

The decision to vacate the trial date followed a hearing Friday in which defense attorney Doron Weinberg sought to suppress evidence coming from police seizure of more than 600 patient files.

After testimony by investigators, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Norman Gatzert denied Weinberg’s motion that the search warrant used to seize the files was invalid. However, the judge delayed ruling on Weinberg’s second argument — that investigators’ need for the files was not compelling enough to justify invading the privacy of hundreds of patients.

In light of an April high court ruling regarding privacy rights, Gatzert asked both sides to submit supplemental briefs and return to court July 24.

If the evidence culled from the files is suppressed, it could potentially gut the case against Ayres, who is charged with fondling seven former patients between 1991 and 1996. More than 30 men have come forward, but their cases fall beyond the statute of limitations.

On Friday, Weinberg argued that San Mateo police lacked just cause when they served the former president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry with a search warrant.

Despite a four-year investigation, media coverage and an extensive search for patients who may have been molested by Ayres within the last 20 years, no recent victims had stepped forward at the time the doctor’s files were seized, Weinberg said.

Weinberg said that prosecutors, in their zeal to indict a man they believed was a dangerous child molester, trampled the privacy rights of innocent patients.

McKowan said that the seizure of the files was narrowly focused, and would be found lawful.

San Mateo police arrested Ayres in April 2007.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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