updated 4/6/2007 1:01:38 PM ET 2007-04-06T17:01:38

A child psychiatrist who once headed the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was arrested amid allegations he had molested male patients dating back to the 1960s.

Dr. William Ayres, 75, 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. The charges involve multiple victims, but authorities declined to say how many.

The arrest followed a four-year investigation.

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.

“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 bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

His attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment and The Associated Press was not immediately able to reach Ayres’ family.

‘They should not do physical examinations’
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 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.

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