Monday, August 10, 2009

Ayres' Training At Judge Baker in Boston: Wouldn't Dr. Mel Brown,Ayres' Own Former Medical Partners Be Able To Clear This Up ?

First of all, best wishes to the San Mateo DA's office for their decision to retry the Ayres case.

We're writing this because we really, really hope that next time around the DA's office will look into Ayres' training at Judge Baker Guidance Center in Boston from 1959-63. Were child psychiatrists really trained to be literally hands-on with their young patients, as Ayres has been telling everyone in San Mateo County for decades ?

We think not.

Back in the summer of 2006, we spoke a number of times with one of Ayres' former partners named Dr. Hugh Ridlehuber. Ridlehuber recounted to us that back in the 1970s, he had inherited a patient from Ayres- a son of a dentist- who told his father he refused to go back because he was "uncomfortable" by all the physicals Ayres was giving him. Ridlehuber told us he asked Ayres,"Bill, why in hell are you giving a boy a physical?" Ridlehuber told us that Ayres gave a smooth and seamless answer about being taught to give physicals to boys in the therapeutic setting at Judge Baker Guidance Center in Boston, where he trained from 1959-63.

Ridlehuber, alas, let it go.

But it sure sounded bogus to us and that's why, in the fall of 2006, we decided to investigate ourselves. We spoke with three doctors who trained with Ayres at Judge Baker: Dr. Stanley Walzer( who would later become head of Judge Baker); Dr. Joseph Mullen; and Dr. Jacqueline Amati-Mehler, who resides in Rome and has a world reputation aas a child psychiatrist.
All three told us in no uncertain terms that they did not give physicals to boys or girls during therapy. "We treated the mind only," Dr. Amati-Mehler told us. Which would make sense, because Judge Baker had its own on-site pediatrics unit.

If the DA decides to look into Ayres' Judge Baker days, we hope that they also talk to Dr. Mel Brown, one of Ayres' former partners at at Peninsula Psychiatric Associates. Dr. Brown who still lives in the San Mateo area, also trained at Judge Baker from 1963-64. We spoke to Brown in the summer of 2006 and we are sure he would be more than willing to help set the record straight for the prosecution. We happen to know he's no fan of Ayres - or his sex education television program.

If the DA hasn't spoken to Brown already, they definitely should. He left Peninsula Psychiatrics Associates at the end of 1987 and was involved with some litigation concerning the retirement trust against the association. We found the case over at the San Mateo court website.

We have heard that Ayres had told so many people on the West Coast so often that he was trained to touch boys during therapy at Judge Baker that he almost believed it himself. He probably referred to his training at Judge Baker -as he did at the trial - as working at "Harvard." (Other doctors who've trained at Judge Baker have said they have never referred to their training there -which is an adjunct - as "working at Harvard.") We hope the DA nails him on that next time around.

We've noticed a bit of an inferiority complex among West Coast folks in terms of East Coast training. We've wondered if Ridlehuber ( who died last year) and the cops and Childrens Services who received complaints about Ayres didn't challenge him because they were intimidated by his "training" back East. (No doubt he threw in the word "Harvard".) Maybe they really thought - as the wife of pediatrician Dr. Sam Leavitt did when she told a mother of an Ayres victim four years ago: " I guess child psychiatrists were trained differently back in the East."

Why, even Dr. Gil Kliman for the defense in this last trial kept emphasizing his East Coast medical training and implied that his work at Columbia University Medical School was somehow fancier and more important than say, any training at Stanford. We don't necessarily think that's true, but we've noticed that West Coast people are still buying into the East-Coast-is-superior kind of thinking.

If East Coast medical training is so vastly superior, why then, did so many pedophile child psychiatrists and pediatricians who have been busted get their start in Boston - as Ayres did?
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Here's a partial list of doctors (most of them Ivy League graduates)who've had their medical licenses revoked and/or were arrested for pedophilia and who also worked in Boston:

Dr. Edward Daniels
Child psychiatrist. Graduate of Yale. Child psychiatry fellowship at Yale
Staff child psychiatrist at Judge Baker Guidance Center, Boston 1960
License revoked in 1990 for sexually abusing four 27 women.

Dr. Alan Horowitz
Adolescent psychiatrist. Magna cum laude grad of Harvard University
Arrested on multiple counts of sexual abuse of young boys, including sodomy.
Fled US when on bail: captured in India after being featured on America's Most Wanted.
Now serving time in federal prison.

Dr. Walter Presnell
Child psychiatrist. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s. Paid a large settlement to young male patient he molested in Boston throughout the 1970s. License revoked in Connecticut after it was revealed he had given marijuana and alcohol to young male patients and convinced them to engage in various sex acts with them as a way to deal with feelings about their fathers.

Dr. Donald Lee Rife
Child psychiatrist. Graduate of Yale and Harvard Medical School
Trained at Judge Baker Guidance Center 1964-1996.
License revoked for molesting adolescent boys in Vermont, Massachussetts and Florida. Arrested in Florida for molesting a seven year old boy.

Dr. Tobias Friedman
Child psychiatrist. Worked in various Boston hospitals, including Childrens Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard from 1956-57 License revoked for trying to hypnotize and have sexual contact with two adolescent girls in the 1960s and early 1970s when he was in practice in Massachussetts.

Dr. Mel Levine:
Pediatrician and best selling author of "A Mind at a Time."
Graduate of Harvard Medical School. Accused of molesting boys when he worked at Boston Childrens Hospital. North Carolina medical license revoked in 2009 because of molestation allegations. Kicked off the foundation he started because of sex abuse allegations. Total number of victims who have come forward: 50


  1. We've wondered if Ridlehuber ( who died last year) and the cops and Childrens Services who received complaints about Ayres didn't challenge him because they were intimidated by his "training" back East.

    As a graduate of Duke and UNC, Ridlehuber was hardly intimidated by Ayres' training. His reasons for declining to challenge Ayres likely had more to do with his own personal code of ethics.

    Ridlehuber was a man of enormous sensitivity, principle, and conviction. He was also an old-fashioned Southern gentleman, in the best sense of the word. He bent over backwards to avoid causing disturbance in the lives of others -- including a colleague about whom he may have had suspicions.

  2. "He bent over backwards to avoid causing disturbance in the lives of others -- including a colleague about whom he may have had suspicions."

    Which is exactly why child molesters get away with what they get away with...

    Lack of empathy, even from the professionals who are supposed to be protecting them.

  3. Holy Moly, well if that isn't quite informative.

    I think I know who the former partner is - Melvin Brown.

    When I was at the courthouse retriving the documentation on the suit Ayres filed against Peninsula Psychiatric Associates there were many policies attached. Early partners were Ronnie Sue Leith and Melvin Brown.

    On 2-17-1988 Melvin Brown sued the PPA and it appears to be about professional retirement benefits. The Civil Case is 327102.

  4. DS: Point taken.

    I just think it's important not to make assumptions (or insinuate assumptions) about people who are unable to speak for themselves.

    I knew Dr. Ridlehuber quite well, and I have nothing but the greatest respect for him, both personally and professionally.

    Hugh's character was nothing -- absolutely nothing -- like Ayres. He was, however, unquestionably Ayres' intellectual and academic equal (if not superior!) And he was decidedly not insecure in relationship to Ayres' "East Coast training."

    As I stated above, if anything, Ridlehuber's reluctance to challenge Ayres had more to do with his own personal code of ethics than with any fear of retribution. I am confident that had he had more concrete evidence to support his suspicions, he would not have hesitated to pursue a challenge.

  5. I completely agree that one of the reasons that child molesters get away with their crimes is because people who are supposed to be protecting them don't believe them or won't go to bat for them.

    However, this does not apply in Ridlehuber's case.

    Lack of empathy was never an issue for Hugh Ridlehuber. A more empathic man I've never met.

  6. I am well aware that Dr. Ridlehuber was a lovely man. I enjoyed speaking with him and was upset when I heard the news of his death.

    Still I have wondered why he and other doctors who suspected that Ayres was doing something, didn't report Ayres. Dr. Al Rainieri told the mother of the victim who filed the civil suit that he wasn't surprised to hear Ayres had molested her son, because he'd suspected it for years. (Rainieiri later committed suicide.)

    Mandated reporters are only supposed to have SUSPICIONS of child abuse. And by all reports, there were at least two dozen doctors who strongly suspected that Ayres was molesting boys and did nothing.

    The San Mateo Citizens Review Panel has a list of names of some of these doctors. They were told that some of these doctors believed Ayres was molesting boys but instead of reporting him, just stopped referring boys to him.

    This is shocking and disturbing on so many levels.

    This William Ayres blog posted earlier this year an excellent essay by a USC forensic psychologist that among other things asks why Ayres' partners bought his Judge Baker excuse about physicals -even though none of them had been trained to do so.

    Ayres' defense was unable to produce a single child psychiatrist in this country who said he gave genital exams to boys in therapy. Not a single one.

    This is not an issue about whether a doctor was or was not empathic. It's about doing the right thing. And many, many doctors in San MAteo did not. They turned a blind eye or just didn't want to see. It takes a lot of energy and will power to get involved and it appears and doctors who suspected did nothing.

    My question is: why did they buy Ayres' excuse when it was so blatantly and laughably ridiculous?

    Ridlehuber told me that Ayres was "vindictive and arrogant." Is that why no one stood up and challenged him. Was it because he had been a president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry? Is it because there's a code of silence among doctors? IT shouldn't have taken an outsider who lived thousands of miles away to wake up the San Mateo Community as to what was going on- especially since as one therapist in the family courts told me - there had been big rumors about Ayres for years."

    There's a comment in "It Was Seven Years Ago Today" about how many child psychiatrists knew that a child pscyhiatrist named Dr. Walter Presnell was molesting boys but did nothing.
    Here's part of the comment:

    According to a May 15, 1985 article in the Washington Post about a Harvard trained child psychiatrist who was busted for molesting young boys in therapy,14 psychiatrists in sworn depositions said that they were told or were said by others to have bren told of improper dealings by Presnell with boys over the years.

    Daniel Burnstein, the lawyer of one of the victims of Dr. Presnell,told the Washington Post
    " I found psychiatrists who knew about Presnell... going back 30 years. And they didn't give a toot until the patients spoke up."

  7. If I learned that a child psychiatrist colleague of mine had been undressing adolescent boys in therapy over and over again, I'd be on the phone so fast to authorities it would have made your head spin.

  8. This excerpt from the essay "As Hippocrates Forewarned- Sexual Misconduct by Physicians" by Dr. Bruce Gross which appeared in the Annals of American Psychotherapy Association in the Spring 2008 issue - asks why none of the San Mateo psychiatrists challenged Ayres about his Judge Baker excuse:

    Although the initial report of suspected child abuse was filed by a licensed clinical social worker, it seems that several psychiatrists in the San Mateo area had notable suspicions regarding Ayres. Unfortunately, there is no apparent evidence that any of them filed a complaint anywhere. One psychiatrist had suspicions that dated back at least to the late 1980s (if not earlier), when a juvenile patient in a group home adamantly refused to continue in treatment with Ayres. Other psychiatrists were aware that Ayres conducted "physical exams" of some patients and seemingly accepted his explanation that he was "trained to do so" (even though none of them received such training). Ayres reportedly explained the purpose of the examinations were to assess the given minor patient's "sexual development."

  9. Here's the link to "As Hippocrates Forewarned- Sexual Misconduct by Physicians."

    There's a long section devoted to the Ayres case.;col1

  10. To Patient Advocate.
    Re your comment:

    I think I know who the former partner is - Melvin Brown.



  11. I have no doubt that Dr. Ridlehuber was a southern gentleman. Ok, so that is fantastic.

    Unfortunately, being a southern gentleman is not going to make it past my list of excuses. Every profession has governing rules and principles.

    Let’s just use airline pilots as an example. Why would another pilot or copilot report a drunken pilot? Well isn’t the answer simple. A drunken pilot will kill the passengers who have faith in his or her abilities if the plane crashes.

    Oh, but I left out the biggest part, he might also kill the copilot! So as you see there is much more motivation to keep drunken pilots out of the sky.

    On the other hand we have doctors, they are mandatory reporters BUT the biggest difference is they will not harm the doctor who fails to report them because THE DOCTOR WHO KNOWS ABOUT AN INCOMPETENT COLLEAGUE will steer clear of them and make sure that their family does too. No need to stop the plane wreck the other patients are headed for because you (doctor) are not on the plane. Who cares right?

    See that is the ethical code of doctors, if it doesn’t harm me, why should I care? Why should I care about a patient who has placed their mental or physical health in my impaired colleagues trust? It won’t affect me if they are damaged for life!

    This is clearly the difference between physicians and other professions. There is no such thing in most cases of caring about the patient at all when it comes to the vow of silence amongst healthcare professionals.

    Since when did a personal code of ethics supercede professional and law-abiding behavior?

  12. PA, the point I'm trying to make is that I believe that Ridlehuber did not have the evidence he needed to accuse Ayres of wrongdoing. His personal code of ethics prevented him from making an accusation about somebody without having solid facts to support his accusation.

    Perhaps I'm sensitive on this issue. But I assure you: I do not have any sort of "pro-doctor" bias -- quite the contrary!

    As I said, I don't feel it's fair to malign a man who cannot defend himself. Speculation can be a dangerous game, one that I don't think any of us would like played against us! That said, I honestly believe that had Hugh been alive last month, he would have testified against Ayres.

    Let's concentrate our energy on those doctors who are still alive...they're the only ones who can help this case anyway.

  13. "I believe that Ridlehuber did not have the evidence he needed to accuse Ayres of wrongdoing."

    My understanding of the law with regards to this is that evidence is not required. But if suspicion is had, or someone directly reported it to a mandated reporter, then that person is required BY LAW to report.

    That is the sole issue here. If everyone were saying "Ridelhuber had no SUSPICION" that would be one thing... no one has said that, instead I'm seeing excuses:

    "personal code of ethics"

    "a man of enormous sensitivity,principle, and conviction."

    "He bent over backwards to avoid causing disturbance in the lives of others -- including a colleague about whom he may have had suspicions."

    "reluctance to challenge Ayres had more to do with his own personal code of ethics"

    "I am confident that had he had more concrete evidence to support his suspicions, he would not have hesitated to pursue a challenge."

    "Lack of empathy was never an issue for Hugh Ridlehuber. A more empathic man I've never met."

    If it's true that this super-great guy had suspicions when he did, and he had done his job, then I might not have been molested by ayres.

    It's just that simple.

    I don't know the guy, and I'm not glad that he's dead, but it does mean that there's no longer any need for him to defend himself.

    Let's hope some of the living will finally step up to the plate.

    (Don't worry, I won't hold my breath.)

  14. To anonymous at August 10. 2:07 pm. Oh, but when I spoke to Ridlehuber in June 2006 he did have all the solid facts. He had seen the news stories on Ayres settling the civil suit with the victim and about the polic te serving the search warrant on his home.

    He told me then that he did suspect that Ayres had most likely molested the dentist's son. He should have reported this fact to the police then. This was before Ayres was arrested.

    Additionally, as I said, mandated reporters only need SUSPICIONS that a colleague is molesting children. Ridlehuber said he was alarmed when he learned Ayres had undressed the boy. If he didn't want to go the authorities, he need only have called Judge Baker himself to find out what the deal was. He could have also asked his other partner and other doctors whether this was normal. But he didn't have to, It wasn't normal.

    None of the doctors who pretty much knew Ayres was molesting boys weren't in the room with him when he molested them. A mandated reporter needs to act on his strong suspicions.

    It appears that Ridlehuber chose not to act further back in the 1970s but once he realized he had a patient who'd been molested when he spoke with me in 2006, he most certainly should have contacted the authorities. He did not do so until after the arrest.

    There is no child shrink in this country who does routine physical exams in this country. The only ones who have are either in prison or have had their license revoked.

    An alarm bell most certainly went off in Ridlehuber's head but then he turned it off.

    Additionally, in 1995 a San Bruno therapist who had a patient who received physicals from Ayres became sufficiently alarmed and did - along with another therapist - attempt to report Ayres to Childrens Services. She said she just knew he shouldn't be giving a kid phyiscals. She had no more "evidence" than Ridlehuber did. But she had suspicions and she was right. She was a mandated reporter, and did the right thing.

    Please read the essay by Dr. Bruce Gross which talks about Ayres' partners who did not act on their suspicions, but should have.

  15. Deep Sounding, you said

    "Let's hope some of the living will finally step up to the plate."

    Paging Al Fricke.

    Fricke is on the San Mateo Citizen's Review Panel of doctors(Fricke is a psychologist who often worked with Ayres) who suspected Ayres was up to no good with boys and did not report him.

    As far as I know, he has not contacted the San Mateo District Attorney's office.

  16. I would like to hear what "Susan" from Hillsborough has to say on the matter of doctors in the community who suspected Ayres but did not report him.

  17. when I spoke to Ridlehuber in June 2006 he did have all the solid facts.

    And at that point, he had also just been through multiple bypass surgery, from which he, at the age of 72, was recovering exceedingly slowly.

    He had a wife, 3 children and two grandchildren, all of whom adored him & knew full well that stress could kill him. I would blame nobody for discouraging him from undertaking anything like this case at that point in his life. While some may see that as selfish and irresponsible, others may see it quite differently.

    Again, as I have said: let's put our energy where it can be most effective. Dead men aren't going to help us here.

    "What-ifs" are always interesting exercises, but they don't change anything...and what we want to see is a change: we want to see Ayres take responsibility for his criminal actions, and we want to see him pay the consequences.

  18. Let's concentrate our energy on those doctors who are still alive...they're the only ones who can help this case anyway.

    Dear Anon:

    Do you know of Dr. Philip Caulfield? He was a partner of Dr. Ridlehuber's for many years. He is still alive. If you know Hugh by his first name, just curious if you know Dr. Caulfield?

    I always say follow every lead regardless if it is hearsay as it may lead you to at least some knowledge you didn't have before.

    Dr. Caulfield once lived on Pepper Avenue in Burlingame before he moved to San Mateo.

    I have a feeling that partners in the medical field would have a general knowledge of the inside circle and feelings of like or dislike among colleagues.

    I have a feeling that Dr. Caulfield might have heard Hugh say something.......

  19. "What-ifs" are always interesting exercises, but they don't change anything...”

    What if some young psychologist or psychiatrist is struggling right now with a colleague, suspected of child molestation? What if that young Doctor is suspicious, but has not “gathered evidence” or has their own “personal ethic” and is leaning toward just doing nothing? (As it appears that Ridelhuber did.) What if the suspected molester then goes on to ruin the lives of many patients and their families?

    What if on the other hand that very same young Doctor comes across this case, or dozens of others like it? What if that young Doctor reads about how a monster like ayres can reach back through time to besmirch the “good” name of a Doctor (like Ridelhuber) even after their death, simply because he knew something was going on, but he just looked the other way, rather than cause trouble for himself.

    What if that young Doctor then decides to do the right thing, and the molestation is stopped, and the young Doctor enjoys a long and successful career, AND has to live with the knowledge that he did countless good for many patients and their families who would otherwise have suffered at the hands of another?

    “What-if” is not a pointless academic discussion.

    “What-if” is not something that you can use to pooh-pooh valid claims of wrongs of omission done to countless victims for a momentary convenience.

    How lovely that Ridehuber again did not have to deal with the blows that were dealt decades early by a monster that he could have been instrumental in stopping.

    What-if some young Doctor does learns a lesson from a dead man.

  20. That is a great commentary DS. The what-if's are very important. Learning from the past is very important.

    Getting doctors to help patients who actually support them (the money they earn) should be a new civil rights movement.

    A big story broke today in the press regarding Stanford and a patient who died and had her medical records tampered with. The son is a DOCTOR in San Diego!

    It will touch home someday for every doctor at the rate it's going.

    I forgot to add that Dr. Caulfield, Dr. Ridlehuber's former partner, graduated from Georgetown University (East Coast) class of is another east coast kinda guy who wasn't doing physicals on kids. Go figure.

    We sure have a lot of untapped resources right here in San Mateo County for the prosecution.

  21. I apologize to all those who found my comments about Ridlehuber to be offensive.

    No, I do not know Dr. Caulfield, nor had I even heard of him until about 6 months ago. I completely agree that he would be an excellent resource for this case.

    I also agree (completely) that hopefully the publicity engendered by this case will be a wake-up call for doctors. I hope it will help to set precedents that should have been in place long ago.

    I especially hope that Ayres is found guilty and that his being found guilty will at least somewhat alleviate the pain he has caused so many people.

  22. Re mandated reporting.

    It seems that there need to be stricter laws and censure for those who do not report even their suspicion that something funny is going on. After all, in our system a person is innocent until proven guilty and the tip should be anonymous.

    I can understand on a personal level how hard it might be to report someone. I know even in my own neighborhood when people are shooting illegal fireworks that I am torn as to whether to call the police for fear of fire or let someone else do so and not be thought of as a crank. I also know that the police in our city are overwhelmed and overworked.

    In the case of suspicions of child sexual abuse, it is a scenario even more critical as we are dealing with lives being damaged irreparably. There was a case of child abuse in a highly publicized case in Oregon where children's services was called several times. No one bothered to follow up. It turned out that a girl was murdered (the second in two months by the same person) because no one followed up on good evidence. I am sure that those negligent must think of those murdered girls daily. At least I hope so.

    It is true people are busy and also don't like to think badly of people, especially people supposedly highly educated and in the healing profession. That is why things presented in this blog are of such value to educate and possibly make some improvements in the system.

    Thank you, Deep Sounding, for all you have done, and also to the writers of the intelligent comments on this blog.

  23. San Bruno therapist Fran Acciardi was one of the few therapists who - with the same"evidence" as all of the psychiatrists had on Ayres- who actually did something. She went to Childrens Services in 1995, along with another therapist and tried to report that Ayres was doing questionable "physicals" on one of her boy patients. Childrens Services thwarted her because they said Ayres was a doctor.

    But bravo to Fran Acciardi for having the guts to step up to the plate and attempt to take action against Ayres.

    And bravo to Dr. Lynn Ponton for filing a molestation complaint against Ayres to the California Medical Board.

    Bravo also to that victim who went to the Medical Board in 1994 to report that he had been molested in 1966. The Medical Board somehow forgot to alert the police of this complaint, and now that victim cannot be found.

    My hats off to you, Mr. Victim from 1966, for having the guts to come forward.

  24. I apologize to all those who found my comments about Ridlehuber to be offensive.

    Thank you. And thank you for believing in the victims, and not the other way around.

    I AM overly sensitive about the subject of people who should have reported:

    Deep Sounding in an earlier post:

    "Then the civil trial is announced. Hmm.. So I wasn’t the only one. So, because I did nothing, other boys were molested. Well there’s a dirty and crushing little secret to keep."

  25. I apologize to all those who found my comments about Ridlehuber to be offensive.

    I didn't find them to be offensive.

    Also, don't worry or apologize if you are pro-doctor or not pro-doctor.

    I see a few doctors. I don't like any of them but unfortunately I have to see them. Like, I actually hate them. The consequences of a unfortunate event that left it's mark on me forever.

    No offense taken. I understand that if Dr. Ridlehuber was someone you were personal friends with it would be hard to believe he didn't follow through with his suspicions.

    I thought about it last night. When Greg H. went to the police in 1987, and the cops showed up at Ayres building at 215 No. San Mateo Drive, I am sure it was the talk of the office. Dr. Ronnie Sue Leith had her office there.

    I mean there were so many people who did nothing. I have never heard of the cops showing up at your place of employment and no one makes a peep or asks about it!

    The radios of the cops are loud. People gawk! An office manager, other doctors didn't notice San Mateo cops parked out front or talk about way.

    Greg H. did a really good thing by contacting the police.