WAREHAM — The single charge of assault and battery against longtime Southcoast Health President and CEO Keith A. Hovan was dismissed in Wareham District Court Monday morning during a bench trial that lasted just a few minutes.

Hovan, 59, was arrested on Nov. 6 and charged with domestic assault and battery against his wife. 

In Massachusetts, defendants in criminal cases have the right to decide whether to have a jury trial or a bench trial — the latter in which a judge decides the case without a jury.

Hovan’s wife was present with her own attorney and invoked her spousal privilege in declining to testify as a witness against Hovan. As a result, the commonwealth could not prosecute the case, the judge said. 

“You understand that if you do not testify, the government cannot go forward in this prosecution, they have no other evidence,” Judge Edward Sharkansky said, to which Hovan’s wife answered in the affirmative. 

Hovan stood before the judge and adjacent to his wife. He did not testify. 

Molly MacKinnon, the assistant district attorney on the case for the Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz’s office, declined to comment and said all press inquiries should be referred to Beth Stone, the office’s director of communications.

Stone in an email said the victim in the case invoked her marital privilege and that without testimony, the district attorney’s office was unable to proceed. 

Hovan and his wife issued a joint statement following the trial, which was provided by Southcoast Health spokesperson Kaitlyn Cox. 

“We are pleased that the case has been resolved today. We appreciate the professionalism of all of the participants in the legal process. We are eager to move forward together as a family, heartened and grateful for the continued support we have received,” they said. “Throughout this difficult time there has been significant opportunity for reflection, which has further strengthened our family and for that we are grateful.”

Rochester police reports state that officers responded to Hovan’s Rochester home late on a Saturday night after his daughter called 911 to report an alleged domestic assault involving Hovan and his wife. An officer who responded to the home noted Hovan was “covered in a liquid” that smelled like alcohol. The officer wrote that Hovan exited the front door stating, “something along the lines of, ‘It was me, I did it, my arm hit her in the face.’”

One officer also reported seeing cuts with blood on Hovan’s forearm.

After entering the home, an officer attended to Hovan’s wife, spotting droplets of blood on clothing and a red mark on her face that later became a bruise. She told police an argument started over a television show but became physical when she started writing in a journal, which Hovan then tried to grab, police said. An officer noted ripped paper on the ground.

Hovan that night said the matter was unfortunate and “apologized for losing his temper,” police said. He also reportedly stated that his daughter “did the right thing for calling the police” and that he was proud of her.

Police responded to Hovan’s home just over a dozen times over the last decade, police records show. Some calls were automatic for a home alarm setting off or from Hovan reporting suspicious vehicle activity, but one report from 2011 states police were called following a “verbal argument” between Hovan and his wife.

Hovan in mid-November took a paid leave of absence as president and CEO of Southcoast Health — a position he assumed in 2011. He also stepped down from his governor-appointed position on the Massachusetts Public Health Council.

The Southcoast Health Board of Trustees in November wrote the previous days had been “difficult” and that they will continue to refrain from comment until the matter is adjudicated.

In response to a request for comment from the board, Cox also provided a statement from the board.

“The Board is aware of today’s dismissal. With additional legal proceedings in the month ahead, the Board will refrain from public comment at this time,” the trustees said in the written statement.

Hovan’s leave of absence as president and CEO will continue, a Southcoast Health spokesperson said.

Hovan’s attorney Christopher Markey said he did not have any comment.

Hovan is facing a potential charge for alleged possession of illegal ammunition. A clerk magistrate hearing to determine probable cause for the ammunition offense will take place in January, a court clerk and Rochester police officer confirmed.

Email Anastasia Lennon at alennon@newbedfordlight.org.

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