To Our WilliamAyresWatch Readers:
If you are looking for strictly mainstream coverage of the Dr. Ayres trial, please go to the SF Chronicle or the San Mateo County Times. But if you are looking for a more complex and richer back story to the case, you will find it here. We will provide coverage of the trial, but because our four correspondents have been involved with this case years before the prosecutor or Doron Weinberg came on the scene, from time to time we will provide the backstory that you will never see in the mainstream media. We are professionals; we are sticklers for the truth; and several of us have photographic memories for dates, time and conversations. What you here is the absolute, essential truth. If you do not wish to know the deeper story, then don't read this blog. But we believe that the truth will always out. The more it is suppressed, the harder it will struggle to get free.
This blog will offer a mix of impressions and data for the trial, and the backstory. If we feel that either the prosecutor or Weinberg has erred in their statings of the fact, we will note it here.
Tuesday June 23, 2009: Opening Arguments in the trial of William Hamilton Ayres.
8:20 am. Our correspondents arrive at the Redwood City courthouse. There is one television truck for Channel Seven. Vic Lim - we think that' s how it's spelled- is hanging out on the second floor outside Judge Freeman's courtroom. There is a reporter from the SF Chronicle; the Bay City News; The SM County Times and a KCBS radio reporter named Mike Colgan. Also John Roemer from the legal paper, the San Francisco Daily Journal. Although the prosecutor would later laughingly tell the jury that "You may notice there is a lot of media here today" in truth there isn't. Not nearly as much media presence as there was back in April 2007, when Ayres was arrested and indicted. To one of our correspondents who has covered many major trials with national media interest, there does not seem to be much buzz about this trial at all- even in San Mateo. Outside the county, no one seems to have heard of the Ayres trial.
In the hall outside the courtroom, we spot Ayres with his walker, sitting next to a woman who looked like some society matron -- from Hillsborough,maybe -- well preserved for her advancing age, maybe had some work done, well-coiffed blonde streaks. Next to her was Solveig, in the same peacock blue jacket that she wore back on June 1, the first day of the trial. A number of observers noted that she had placed this society dame between herself and her husband. This Ayres' pal had a lined notebook and was attempting to eavesdrop on every conversation in the hallway between parents of victims and reporters. She wrote in an awkward left-hand scrawl, and looked angry. We wondered why she has not appeared in court before now.
Also on hand was the ever-dutiful Robert Ayres, son of the doctor who looks a lot like Solveig with his protuding eyes and a strong profile. He's tall and gangly and walks with hunched shoulders. He has black hair and a mustache and goatee that is just starting to go gray. We noticed he was carrying a cap that looked like a beret that he placed on his knee in the courtroom. We think the effect he was trying for Bohemian artist look. No suit and tie. Very casually dressed, in work shirt and heavy black shoes. What struck is that although he is roughly 46, how young he seems. Doesn't seem to have matured into a man. There's an eager, waiflike quality to him and one wonders if that's because his father was overbearing. He fetched coffee for his father and mother and the society dame. To these observers Robert Ayres seems like a lost soul.
Dr Ayres had a grey pinstripe suit on and we have to say that the sight of his rather portly back spilling out of his chair made us lose our appetite. As always, he was deathly pale. Like a death-head.
The courtroom was filled up with a handful of parents of victims and journalists and fresh-faced law students. It appears that there may have been at least one victim in attendance, taking many notes. This thin intense man has been attending most of the motions up to this point and we have never seen anyone take so many notes. He listens to the goings on in the courtroom as if his very life depended on it, and quite possibly it does.
Detective Rick Decker - who looked to have some kind of gel on his crew cut, and looking all of about twenty five -sat next to the prosecutor, who was in a tan pant suit we have seen her wear before. Although Decker is not a lawyer, he took notes on his laptop of the proceedings, which surprised us. He had a red sports bottle type container in front of him but we never saw him take a sip.
Doron Weinberg's bald spot was so sunburned that we were worried for him. Whatever he's doing in his spare time - golf ? Boating? He's gotta start wearing sunscreen on his lobster red face and bald pate or he is going to get skin cancer for sure. He was so beet red that it was distracting.
We got into the courtroom just as the jurors were being given their instructions. Yet another juror has been excused (no, not the one who was talking to her spiritual advisor) for talking about the case outside the courtroom. They picked the name out of the replacement juror out of a hat. A young woman in a blue shirt was chosen. Since the alternate jurors and the jurors all sat together, it was impossible for us to determine who was an alternate and who was not. All told there are 15 jurors and 10 of them are women. There is one African American woman; three Asians (possibly one more). The stand out juror is an older gent who sat in the front row with a gray mustache who wore eyeglasses with one eyeglass frame blacked out. It was very, very disconcerting for this courtroom spectator to look at that juror. He reminded us of a pirate, or a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Another standout was a very heavyset white woman, in her sixties or seventies with white hair pulled back in a bun with a purple scrunchie. She appeared to have trouble walking and had to be helped into her seat. There are a couple of yuppie type women jurors in the late twenties who were busy checking their Blackberries in the hall before entering the courtroom. In the back row was an intelligent and intense looking man in his late forties or so with a green tshirt. He had grey hair, wire rim glasses and reminded us of Steve Jobs in healthier times. We think he could be something like hs an engineer and is the type who should have been picked as foreman. Out of all the jurors, he seemed the most focused and to be really, really taking in what was going on. We could also tell that he was having a very intense reaction to the prosecutor's graphic testimony of the victims.
The opening arguments got off to a late start because lawyer John Halley was arguing that journalist Victoria Balfour - the New York City woman who convinced the police to investigate the good doctor -should be permitted to attend the trial as a journalist. While it is evident to many observers that the prosecutor was not happy to see Balfour in the courtroom , on this day it was Doron Weinberg who presented John Halley with a subpoena for Balfour to attend the trial on July 6. At this point, she is still not permitted to hear the testimony. We think, sadly,that this makes the prosecutor happy. Many spectators have observed that the prosecutor has not been hospitable to Balfour, which seems sadly unprofessional, for had it not been for Balfour, the prosecutor would not be trying the case.
A little birdy(in fact, several birdies) have told us that the prosecutor has been grumbling to victims and their parents that Weinberg is going to argue that Balfour had a "jihad" against Ayres. Not only are we certain that Weinberg will not call Balfour as a witness (what an utter disaster that would be for the defense) but we would also like to argue that a word like"jihad" is not a particularly good word for a prosecutor to be using about a citizen of New York City who not only lived through the September 11 attacks but also volunteered at Ground Zero, feeding the anguished and haunted- looking firemen and police for months. Even prosecutors should be careful about throwing words around about journalists, because hey, you never know, what they say about the journalist might just turn up in print. The truth is that Balfour had no particular vendetta about Ayres.Back in 2002, when she first met Steve Abrams she had never heard of Ayres and neither had any other psychiatrist in New York City she talked to. She had in fact never even heard of San Mateo. All she cared about was getting help for her friend and any other victims who were out there.
Judge Beth Freeman is... how shall we say this ? - a shrimp. She is so small that she reminds us of Lily Tomlin in those old skits of a kid sitting in a giant chair. She's prone to wearing her glasses perched above her Roseanne Roseannadanna hairdo. She listens very intently to the proceedings but she is so small we have a hard time believing that she is a judge.
Judge Freeman made the surprise announcement that there there are now only 6 victims within statute who will testify. We learned from a reporter that a seventh victim pulled out at the last minute. We think it is the victim with a Hispanic surname. So instead of 20 counts, Ayres is only on trial for ten counts of molestation. Gee, this is his second lucky break after the police botched up the nude picture books search.
When the prosecutor begins her opening statement,Ayres' son Robert sits forward and bolt upright in his chair. For the rest of the arguments, he will stay in this position. Both he and his mother take notes.
The prosecutor begins by taking us back to September 2002, when a victim named Steve Abrams (whose name we are printing here because he has given his full name to reporters many times) went to the police to say he had been molested.
[ The truth is that the birth of this case actually goes back to August 2002, when journalist Victoria Balfour first called the police in San Mateo to alert them that Steve Abrams had told her that Ayres had molested him. Although Balfour had urged Steve for months to contact the police, he was too terrified to do so because he was sure he was the only victim. Out of concern for Abrams, Balfour called the police herself to see if other victims had ever come forward. To her relief, the police informed her (well it took them five weeks to get back to her ) that a victim from 1987 -whose file they had lost- had told them he had been molested as well as had another victim who was in Folsom prison. The police told Balfour that the inmate had confided to a psychiatric nurse that Ayres had molested him too.
In her opening argument,we noted that the prosecutor made it seem as if Steve Abrams just came forward so easily to police in 2002. In fact, the truth is more complicated. For many, many months whenever Balfour broached the subject to Abrams about going to the police, he would balk, and blanche and change the subject and talk about how he wasn't in pain about the abuse. But the anguish in Abrams' face whenever Balfour mentioned Dr. Ayres said otherwise. She couldn't stand to see that pain in his face - and in fact, it haunted her -- and that it is why she worked for four months to get him to change his mind and go to the police. It took endless discussions and arguments and pleadings and reasonings on the part of Balfour- over meetings at Starbucks and juice bars in Manhattan and restaurants in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn to convince Abrams that for the sake of his own life and any other victims to come forward. Geesh, what a nag Balfour must have seemed to Abrams. But she couldn't give up trying to help her friend.]
All right, back to the prosecutor's arguments. She talked about the statute of limitations and about how after the laws changed in 2003, Steve Abrams' case was out of the statute of limitations for a criminal case, he had no choice but to file a civil suit.
Another aside that you will not hear in the case :the story of how the first batch of out of statue victims first came forward: in December 2004 during Steve Abrams' civil suit, his lawyer Bob Tobin asked journalist Victoria Balfour to contact Bay Area newspapers and ask them to do stories on the suit. Although the New York Times and the LA Times sniffed and turned up their noses at doing stories when Balfour contacted them - and even the Chronicle wasn't interested, Balfour succeeded after intense effort in getting the San Jose Mercury News and the San Mateo County Times to do stories. Imagine Balfour's shock and delight when Abrams' lawyers told her after the story came out that three new victims had come forward. One of them was Greg Hogue,(who has given his full name to papers)the brave victim who had come forward in 1987 to the police about Ayres, but whose file the police had mysteriously lost. The San Mateo Police had despaired of ever finding the lost 1987 victim but it just goes to show with a little effort by citizens, that miracles can happen
And if you will bear with us - this blog is going to diverge from the prosecutor's opening arguments to give you just one more exclusive inside story that you will not hear in the courtroom. The prosecutor in her opening arguments did not mention victim Alan Y, a victim who contacted the San Mateo County Times in July 2005, after Balfour spent a considerable amount of time convincing that paper and the San Francisco Chronicle to do stories about the civil suit.
The County Times was not interested in Alan Y.'s story - and in fact the reporter that Alan Y contacted never bothered to call him back - but Balfour was interested in the victim. Over that summer of 2005, Alan Y., distraught, called Balfour numerous times to talk about the emotional distress he had suffered at the hands of Ayres, whom he said molested him during a court ordered session.He also called just to talk about his life - how he'd been clean and sober for six years after a lifetime of struggling with drug and alcohol. He told Balfour how hard it was to date as a single dad. He made Balfour laugh by always starting out the conversations by saying" Hi, this is Alan from good ole San Mateo." But most of the time Alan was upset and depressed. He talked about how the molestation had caused him considerable pain. He was angry when the civil lawyer Balfour had found for him and several other victims had suddenly decided that his case was too old for even a civil suit. On October 2, 2005, Alan Y sent a heartwrenching email to Balfour saying that no one in San Mateo County would ever help him find justice - not the police or the judges or anyone else. Balfour urged him not to give up the fight against Ayres but it was too late. In late October Alan Y died in a motorcycle accident. Shaken, Balfour contacted the San Mateo Police Department to inform them of Alan Y's death. The response Balfour got from a police officer in an email was "At least Alan's at peace." Balfour thought to herself: A victim of Dr. Ayres at peace? This was the second death by a crash that Balfour knew of, and Balfour had thought that Alan Y's death would spur the police into action. Alas, it did not. She went to bed, believing that she had to turn her back on San Mateo County and the out of statute victims she had fought for all that summer. She went to bed as discouraged as she had never been before. But the next day, November 11, which is known as Remembrance Day in the country where she grew up - she looked at Alan Y's last despairing email to her. She thought of his two teenagers he had been raising as a single dad. She thought of how they were being raised by their grandmother. She thought about all of the victims out there - the ones she had met and the ones she had not and thought about how all of these years they thought they were Ayres' only victims. She knew she had to fight for them one last time. And so - in spite of her concern and fear that she would come across as a pushy New Yorker, she sat down and wrote to the captain of the San Mateo Police Department that neither Alan Y nor any of the other victims she had located would be at peace until the police found a way to find victims within statute. For many hours later she worried that the police would cut her off or make fun of her or that she had gone too far. But then, from the San Mateo police captain, some good news. Because of her email, and the number of victims she had found(all out of statute) they had decided to try to get a search warrant to find victims within statute. The reason our Williamayreswatch correspondents feel that it is important to talk about the backstory of Alan Y is because it is a story that will not be told in the courtroom. But it is a story that needs to be told. There is no doubt in the correspondents' mind that had not Alan Y died, there would be no criminal case today. So far our correspondents have not convinced Frances Y., the 81- year-old mother of Alan Y. to attend the trial. She is busy working a fulltime job as an office manager and singlehandedly raising Alan Y's son and daughter. She has also said that it would be too painful for her to attend the trial. But we can tell you this: when Balfour met Frances Y. in February 2006 in San Mateo to say that her son's death had been the catalyst for the police search warrant, her eyes filled with tears. "So Alan's death wasn't for nothing," she said to Balfour.
The correspondents at williamayreswatch would ask that all of the readers of this blog please take time out to pay tribute to Alan Y. It is a tragedy that he cannot be here to attend the trial. And please say a prayer for his two children.
All right, we hope that we didn't get you too much off track, so now back to the trial.
The prosecutor talked about the six victims within statute. The details of the abuse will most likely be documented tomorrow in newspapers so we are not going to go into that much detail.
During testimony, Ayres sat like a big fat boulder.For long stretches, he never moves . However, whenever the prosecutor launched into graphic details of the abuse, Ayres visibly flinched. We mean, he really flinched - particularly when the prosecutor described how he made one victim urinate in front of him and then threw away the cup of urine in the sink. Ayres - who had been pretending to take notes - twitched and flinched and looked down -we hope in shame.
We did love the moments of synchronicity that the prosecutor described. She talked about how one victim finally told his wife on his honeymoon that he had decided to go to the San Mateo Police about Dr. Ayres and that when he returned from the honeymoon, there was a call from Captain Callagy of the San Mateo PD, asking him to call.
Even more amazing was the story of Steve S, a bright boy who had gotten into a life of crime after he was molested by Ayres. The day after Ayres was arrested, Steve S, who was being sentenced to robbery for six years, happened to cross paths with Ayres in the same courtroom on the same day. The prosecutor talked about how Steve S had a panic attack when he saw his molester in the courtroom. It was not until April 13, when his mother came to visit him in jail and said "You will never guess what I read about Dr. Ayres" and Steve S said "He's in here for child molestation." And the prosecutor talked about how Detective Rick Decker went to interview Steve S in San Quentin.
What strikes us as particularly chilling is that when Steve S was at the Family Life Center at Petaluma when he was a teenager, he disclosed to his therapist that he was molested by Dr. Ayres. He couldn't remember Ayres' first name, and called him "Richard Ayres."Nonetheless, a report of a molestation was sent to Childrens Services in San Mateo in 1994 and nothing ever came of it. By our count, this is the third complaint to Childrens Services - that we know of,
There as a complaint in 1987, when therapist Jeff Lugerner reported Greg Hogue had been molested. Therapist Fran Acciardi also went to Childrens Services in the mid-1990s after she became alarmed when she learned that Ayres was making one of her patients take off his clothes. Childrens Services thwarted Acciardi. You just know that many,many more complaints went to Childrens Services and nothing was done. Shame on San Mateo County for permitting this pedophile to operate for so long, and for giving him a Lifetime Achievement Award to boot.
We were glad to here that the prosecution is calling child psychiatrist Dr. Lynn Ponton. Many of you may not know that it was Dr. Ponton who interviewed victim Steve Abrams for his civil suit and believed his story of molestation. Unlike other doctors in San Mateo County who suspected Ayres was molesting children and did nothing, Dr. Ponton filed a complaint against Ayres with the medical board. In retailiation, the esteemed Dr. Ayres, ever the bully, filed a complaint against Dr. Ponton with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr Ayres it appears who has had a forty year free reign of molesting boys, was outraged that a responsible adult dared to step in to stop his molesting spree. But we at this blog say three cheers for the brave Dr. Ponton ! We are looking forward to her testimony.
Doron Weinberg's opening arguments: In a word: Snore. He mumbled, he was low key and many in the courtroom found it impossible to hear him. His heart isn't in it. He gives the impression of someone who wrote up his statement the night before.
But Robert Ayres sat bolt upright, at the alert. Both he and his mother and their society dame pal stopped taking notes. But to most observers, Weinberg was a bust. Very general, very vague. At one point, he gave the full names of two victims and then said "oops"and smiled, and asked the court to amend that. He droned his way through Ayres' achievements but there was no oomph, no passion, no "there" behind his words. Skating on the surface, hurrying along. To our correspondents it appeared that he was thinking"Why in hell did I take this case on in the first place?"
Sadly, we noticed that at key moments, the ever eager Robert Ayres nodded vigorously in agreement when Weinberg said things like "Dr. Ayres is first and foremost a doctor." We think Robert and Solveig are the only two people in the United States who believe that child psychiatrists touch children.. Are they not aware of how many child psychiatrists who have done precisely what Ayres has done to boys, and have been locked up in state prison for many years? We continue to wonder if Robert and Solveig suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. Or, if they were to finally pull down the wall of denial and see the reality - that Ayres was a pedophile- that it would make them realize that their entire lives were a falsehood? The way Robert was nodding in agreement with Weinberg when he talked about his father being a pioneer in sex education reminded us of brainwashed Moonies listening to their leader. Robert does not seem like a bad guy - but definitely a waif in need of a father. It is bad, bad luck that he was stuck with Bill Ayres for a dad.
We noticed that Weinberg mentioned that Ayres had a year of pediatrics at Yale and two years of pediatric psychiatry after that. We correspondents know for a fact that this is not true because we have checked with Yale ourselves. Ayres had two years of ADULT PSYCHIATRY at Yale. In a lecture he gave in 1997 for the American Academy of Adolescent Psychiatry(available on tape) the host even tells the audience that Ayres was mostly trained in adult psychiatry at Yale. It's little things like this that drive us crazy. Ayres has been know to embellish his resume and if the DA has its wits about it we would recommend that it check and double check and triple check all his credentials. There's a house of cards in there. If the DA called Harvard University they would not be able to find anyone who says that he was ever on staff there. Oh, he's cheating a little, because Judge Baker Guidance Center is sort of an adjunct of Harvard, but at no time has ayres ever been on the official teaching staff of Harvard. Many East Coast doctors who actually are on staff at Harvard have said they frown at this sort of resume fudging that Ayres is trying to pull.
What else can we say about Weinberg's blah opening arguments? That he used the predictable and shop worn argument that the victims were exaggerating and fabricating and misremembering?? Yawn....
He started his arguments right before lunch and resumed at 1:35 pm. What struck us as odd was that Robert Ayres' hair was soaking wet when he returned to the courtroom after lunch- as if he'd run home to shower. Maybe to get rid of the stench of the sordid allegations the prosecutor had made that morning?
In shades of the Spector case, Weinberg talked about how he doesn't disrespect any of the victims.... yet you know in the weeks to come he is going to give them the shaft.
With the many women who accused Phil Spector of pulling a gun on them,Weinberg told the jury that he didn't mean to disrespect them, and then proceeded to savage them as money- grubbing fame seekers. He told the jury to ignore their testimony completely but then made sure to twist the knife in them.
Even as Weinberg is telling us not to disrespect the Ayres victims, he is already telling the jury that one mother of a victim asked the police about suing Ayres for money. He told the jury that one victim showed up with his mother and a lawyer - as if that were an evil thing. Has he forgotten that he is a lawyer too?
At the end of the day, the first of the in statute victim - known as Orion B,, a very childlike 23 year old, testified as did his mother. It was gut-wrenching and heartwrenching to hear the prosecutor take the victim who dissolved into tears, back into time as a nine year old when he first went to the doctor's office. He testified that he thought his parents were dropping him off at a "safe place." Little did he know that he was about to enter a house of horrors.