No plea deal in works for San Mateo County psychiatrist accused of molesting patients

Rumors that accused child molester Dr. William Ayres could avoid a criminal trial with a plea bargain were emphatically denied by both prosecution and defense attorneys who insist the disgraced child psychiatrist is marching toward a jury trial.

“We’ve never sought to plea bargain the case, we don’t plan to plea bargain the case, and we’re ready for trial,” said San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Doron Weinberg, Ayres’ defense attorney, said Friday there have not been “serious discussions” of a plea deal for the former San Mateo doctor.

Ayres, 77, is accused of molesting dozens of preadolescent male patients from as far back as the 1970s, though just seven accusers fall under the state’s statute of limitations, which requires such charges be brought by victims who are under 29 or born after 1998. He is formally facing 20 counts of felony molestation.

Pretrial motions filed in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City last week were heard by Judge Beth Freeman, who was assigned to the trial on Monday. She granted the prosecution permission to call to the witness stand several men who claim Ayres molested them before the statute of limitations.

Prosecutors had requested that 17 alleged out-of-statute victims testify. While the judge permitted just four alleged victims to testify, she also allowed some of the parents to offer testimony against Ayres.

The judge rejected the defense’s motion to exclude testimony from Diana Emerson, a child abuse expert whom Wagstaffe said would offer insight into why children don’t report molestations right away.

There was no ruling on how many character witnesses Ayres could have take the stand on his behalf, but Weinberg said on Friday he had at least 15 people in mind to speak on the doctor’s behalf.

For most of his career, Ayres was one of San Mateo County’s most respected child psychiatrists, in 2002 receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Board of Supervisors for his work with youth. He served for more than a decade as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Ayres admitted to performing physical examinations on juvenile psychiatric patients, sometimes of their genitals. His defense attorney has argued that these examinations were legitimate and routine practice that has been misunderstood by prosecutors and misinterpreted by the accusers.

“Dr. Ayres has had a distinguished career and he is not a child molester,” Weinberg said. “He has declared his innocence of all these charges and we hope that he will be vindicated at trial.”

One of the out-of-statute witnesses slated to testify for the prosecution spoke with Bay Area News Group several months before Ayres’ arrest, claiming he was molested by the psychiatrist in 1985 when he was 15 years old. Greg Hogue was one of the alleged victims who cooperated in the yearlong investigation leading up to Ayres’ April 2007 arrest.

Hogue told police in 2006 that his school district referred him to Ayres after a note he wrote to a classmate was misconstrued as a suicide threat.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning with a three-day hardship inquiry that will gauge whether potential jurors are able to sit for an eight-week trial. The process will end Wednesday and resume June 16. Opening statements could start by the end of that week, according to Wagstaffe.

Ayres remains out of custody on $750,000 bail. He is expected to return to court Monday for the continuation of pretrial motions.

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