SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man who was videotaped slapping a female reporter’s rear on live TV was arrested Friday on a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery.
Savannah police spokeswoman Bianca Johnson in Savannah confirmed that Thomas Callaway, 43, of Statesboro was charged in connection with the incident that occurred while WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjianwas broadcasting live as runners streamed past her on a prominent bridge in the coastal city.
“The conduct displayed toward Alex Bozarjian during her live coverage of Saturday’s Savannah Bridge Run was reprehensible and completely unacceptable,” the Savannah television station said in a statement Friday evening. “No one should ever be disrespected in this manner. The safety and protection of our employees is WSAV-TV’s highest priority.”
Jail records showed Callaway was booked Friday afternoon. His attorney, Joseph Turner, declined to comment in an email late Friday to The Associated Press.
Video from Bozarjian’s live broadcast Saturday posted online showed one of the passing runners appearing to swat her from behind. The video shows the stunned woman stop talking for a moment and stare as if shocked. The video clip had been viewed more than 11 million times on Twitter as of Friday.
“You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me,” Bozarjian wrote recently on Twitter. “No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”
She told police the man had slapped and then grabbed her buttocks.
Callaway stepped forward earlier this week as the man who slapped Bozarjian. He went to the TV station to give an on-camera apology the station aired Tuesday evening.
“It was an awful act and an awful mistake,” Callaway said at the time.
Callaway said he didn’t intend to slap the reporter on the rear. He said he was raising his arm trying to pat her on the back or the shoulder and didn’t realize until seeing the video that he had touched her buttocks.
Sexual battery is a misdemeanor in Georgia, punishable by up to a year in jail. State law defines the crime as making “physical contact with the intimate parts of the body of another person without the consent of that person.”