REDWOOD CITY — The jury trial of once-prominent San Mateo child psychiatrist Dr. William Ayres on allegations that he molested seven of his preadolescent patients was delayed on Tuesday for the third time since authorities arrested him last year.
The trial of Ayres, which was previously scheduled to begin during the first week of January, is now set for May 11.
Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan pushed back the trial date after learning that Ayres' defense attorney Doron Weinberg will be preoccupied in January defending pop music producer Phil Spector in a murder trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The high-profile Spector trial, which is currently in recess, is scheduled to resume in January.
Weinberg, whom Ayres hired shortly after his arrest in April 2007, appeared in court Tuesday to argue a motion he had filed to postpone the trial of the former child psychiatrist.
But no arguments were presented in public. Instead, Weinberg and prosecutor Melissa McKowan came to an agreement with Judge Cretan before the hearing on Tuesday that Ayres will be tried in May.
"We have set a firm trial date, and I am confident that it will go forward," McKowan said, adding that the judge clearly admonished Weinberg that he will not allow any more delays from the defense attorney.
Weinberg, who did not return calls for comment, filed various motions which have delayed the prosecution of Ayres since his arrest more than 18 months ago.
The jury trial was initially delayed because of the former child psychiatrist's poor health — he was treated last year for prostate cancer — and later because of a protracted legal battle over a motion filed by his defense attorney to suppress all evidence acquired by search warrants that gave investigators access to Ayres' patient files.
The defense motion was ultimately denied and an appeals court recently rejected an appeal. As for Ayres' health, no further court filings regarding the former child psychiatrist's prostate cancer have been filed since February. Weinberg's most recent motion to delay the trial resulted from his involvement in the Spector case.
For those whom Ayres is accused of molesting and their families, the ongoing postponements have produced increasing frustration.
"It's very devastating the way this has dragged on," said a 41-year-old man who claims he was abused by Ayres in the 1980s and appeared in court alongside several family members of alleged victims. "That this guy is walking around doing what he wants to do, I think about it every day."
The man added that news of an impending trial for Ayres brings little relief.
"The reality is, if (Ayres) gets locked up at some point before he's dead, it's really not going to help me at all," he said of the 76-year-old psychiatrist outside of court. "(The alleged abuse) affects everyday life in a singular way and it's sad."
Meanwhile, others connected to the case said they were relieved that the trial of Ayres appears imminent.
Victoria Balfour, a New York-based freelance writer who has helped authorities build their case against Ayres by investigating possible molestation victims of the child psychiatrist, said outside of court that she doesn't mind waiting another few months to see Ayres on trial.
Balfour, who said she first contacted authorities about Ayres in 2002, added that she has learned over the last six years as a victims' advocate that criminal investigations can take a long time to develop and even longer to prosecute.
"I'm not as naive as I used to be about criminal investigations," Balfour said. "I'm still in shock that he was finally arrested."
Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan said after the hearing on Tuesday that she acknowledges the frustration felt by victims' advocates like Balfour and Ayres' alleged victims and their families.
"I admit that I feel the same way," McKowan said. "Unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and all we can do is the best we can."
Reach Michael Manekin at (650) 348-4331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.