REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) _ A child psychiatrist who once headed the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was arrested amid allegations he molested male patients dating back to the 1960s.
Dr. William Ayres, 75, appeared in court Friday on charges that he molested three patients. No plea was entered because his lawyer was not at the hearing.
Ayres was taken into custody Thursday at his San Mateo home and charged with 14 felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. Prosecutors said they plan to present evidence that he molested young boys in his care for decades.
He is accused of fondling three boys repeatedly between 1991 and 1996 while they were his patients, according to the complaint. The boys were 9, 11 and 12 at the time and are now in their 20s. The statute of limitations for such crimes is 10 years or until the victim turns 28.
``These are people more vulnerable than others,'' said prosecutor Melissa Mckowan.
At least 21 victims dating back to 1969 have been identified, but most fall outside the statute of limitations, Mckowan said. Testimony from some of them will be used at trial to show a pattern of behavior, she said.
Ayres, a prominent psychiatrist who retired last year, had been honored in 2002 by the San Mateo board of supervisors with a lifetime achievement award for ``his tireless effort to improve the lives of children and adolescents.'' He also served as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from 1993 to 1995.
His arrest followed a four-year investigation.
``The real tragedy here is that parents entrusted their children to this doctor for help, and they were victimized while in his care,'' San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callagy said. ``That's so tragic.''
A judge reduced his bail from $1.5 million to $250,000 after Vincent O'Malley, who stood in as Ayres' attorney at Friday's brief hearing, told the judge that Ayres' health is failing and he is not a flight risk.
His attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment, and The Associated Press was not immediately able to reach Ayres' family.
Suspicions have dogged Ayres since 2003, when one former patient sued, accusing him of molesting him under the guise of a medical exam on several occasions in the late 1970s when the patient was 13.
The alleged victim in that case, who is now 43, told The Associated Press Friday that Ayres portrayed himself as a friend, buying him models to build and giving him cookies during their weekly sessions. He never told anyone the doctor molested him.
``You end up not saying anything because you feel guilty,'' said the man, who was listed in court papers as James Doe and asked that his name not be used.
In July 2005, the two sides reached a confidential settlement in which Ayres' attorney said the psychiatrist did not concede any wrongdoing.
Ayres said under oath that he didn't remember the alleged victim and denied molesting him. He acknowledged that he sometimes conducted physical exams of patients, according to a transcript of his deposition in the lawsuit.
``I do not think there is any standard of care that says it's inappropriate for a physician who is a child psychiatrist, that they should not do physical examinations,'' Ayres said, according to the transcript.
At least two other molestation reports against Ayres arose before the lawsuit, but one was determined to be ``unfounded'' in 1987, and the other alleged victim wouldn't cooperate with police, according to court records.
In 2005, at least two other men said Ayres molested them when they were teens in the 1960s and 1970s, but authorities couldn't proceed with the cases because the statute of limitations had expired, police reports show.
If convicted of all 14 counts, Ayres could face a maximum 112 years in prison, Mckowan said.
A spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California said Ayres' license to practice doesn't expire until January and he has no record of complaints to the board.