The former head of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was accused of molesting boy patients dating back to the 1960s.
Dr. William Ayres, 75, was taken into custody Thursday at his San Mateo home and booked on 14 felony counts lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old, authorities said. The charges involve multiple victims, but authorities declined to specify how many.
The arrest came after a four-year investigation of the prominent psychiatrist, who served on San Mateo County's Children and Families First Commission and was honored in 2002 by the board of supervisors with a lifetime achievement award for "his tireless effort to improve the lives of children and adolescents." Ayres served as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from 1993 to 1995.
"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."
Ayres was being held on $1.5 million (EUR1.12 million) bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Friday. His attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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.
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 he didn't remember the alleged victim and denied molesting him, but acknowledged 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 would not 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.