NEWBURYPORT — A judge terminated a harassment prevention order issued against local psychiatrist and media personality Dr. Keith Ablow by his former assistant Thursday, ruling that the woman failed to meet the burden of proof as required by law to extend it.
The harassment prevention order had been been issued on Aug. 28 and was extended twice before Thursday's hearing. It compelled Ablow to stay 25 yards away from the woman's home and her workplace, and not to contact or abuse her.
In his decision, Newburyport District Court Judge Allen Swan said for the order to have been extended for up to a year, she needed to show at least three instances of willful or malicious conduct.
But after nearly four hours of testimony over two days from witnesses ranging from a private investigator hired by Ablow to a Newburyport police inspector, the former assistant failed to do so to Swan's satisfaction.
During the woman's testimony on Wednesday, she accused Ablow of sexually harassing her at work and repeatedly crossing her "physical boundaries," at one point touching her buttocks.
"Leave me alone, do not come into my personal space," she said on the witness stand.
She quit her job in July 2015 after working for Ablow for 14 months. But the woman said it was the testimony she gave in February regarding civil lawsuits filed by four former patients that eventually resulted in her seeking the harassment prevention order.
The former assistant claims Ablow would repeatedly spot her walking on Green Street and follow her in his car. She also said there was an instance when he waited in his car for her to leave a downtown pet store and then sped out of the parking lot in an alleged attempt to intimidate her.
Ablow never took the stand.
During Thursday's closing statements, Ablow's attorney, Michael DiStefano, did his best to discredit the woman's testimony. He highlighted instances during her employment, including during times when he was allegedly harassing her, that she thanked him for a "great year," or signed his birthday card.
"She's not a credible witness," DiStefano, a former assistant district attorney said, adding that her court affidavit showed her "stretching and grabbing anything she can to make a claim against Dr. Ablow."
DiStefano went on to say that her motive for taking out the harassment prevention order against Ablow was to hurt him.
"That's what concerns him," DiStefano said of his client.
The former assistant's attorney, Scott Heidorn, denied that claim, saying she was making a reasonable request in an effort to feel safe.
"(She) is terrified of the defendant and rightfully so," Heidorn said.
Heidorn accused Ablow of continuously reaching out to her in an effort to get her back in the office as his assistant. When that didn't work, he asked her out for dinner.
"She wants nothing to do with him," Heidorn said.