August 27, 2013

8-year prison term in long-running Ayres saga

The up-and-down case of a child psychiatrist who sexually molested boys sent to him by the courts for counseling has finally concluded -- at least for now. William Ayres, 81, pleaded no contest to molesting five boys and was sentenced this week to eight years in prison.

The case has been slogging through the courts for as long as this blog has been around, in large part due to disputes over Ayres's competency. Ayres is suspected of molesting dozens of boys over a period of several decades, but many cases were beyond the statute of limitations.

The case had all of the elements of high drama: A once-respected child psychiatrist accused of molesting vulnerable boys sent to him by the courts. Allegations that prosecutors turned a blind eye. Pressure from victim's rights lobbyists. And, of special interest to this blog's readers, a bevy of mental health experts presenting contradictory evidence.

After a jury trial on the issue of competency ended in a deadlock in 2011, both sides stipulated that Ayres was incompetent due to dementia. He spent about nine months at Napa State Hospital -- where defendants in Northern California are sent for competency restoration treatment -- before the hospital decided that he was faking dementia in an elaborate ruse to avoid trial. He was finally found competent to stand trial after a four-day court hearing late last year.

At his sentencing hearing, victims -- now adults, some with children of their own -- spoke of the traumatic effects of being victimized by someone in a position of trust. As evidence that the former head of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry knew the damage he was inflicting, one former victim even read an excerpt from a journal article Ayres co-authored entitled "Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused."

Victims and their family members burst into applause when Ayres was sentenced, hugging and rejoicing over their victory in a lengthy and uphill struggle for justice, according to a news report in the San Mateo County Times.

But the fight may not be quite over yet: Ayres' attorney warned in court that the wheelchair-bound octogenarian may seek to withdraw his no contest pleas.

My prior blog posts on this case include: 

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