The runner who slapped a TV reporter’s bottom during a live broadcast of a race last weekend was arrested on Friday on a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery, reports The Guardian.
A Savannah police spokeswoman, Bianca Johnson, confirmed that Thomas Callaway, of Statesboro, Georgia, was charged in connection with the incident that occurred while WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian was broadcasting live as runners streamed past her on the Talmadge Bridge.
“The conduct displayed toward Alex Bozarjian during her live coverage of Saturday’s Savannah Bridge Run was reprehensible and completely unacceptable,” the Savannah TV station said in a statement. “No one should ever be disrespected in this manner. The safety and protection of our employees is WSAV-TV’s highest priority.”
Callaway was identified by online sleuths as a 43-year-old married father of two daughters who serves as a youth minister at Pittman Park United Methodist Church. He was also identified as a local Boy Scout leader, according to multiple news outlets.
Jail records showed Callaway was booked on Friday afternoon.
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”.
In a clip of the assault that has received over 12 million views on Twitter, Bozarjian was left visibly shocked after Callaway jogged past her while slapping her on the behind.
“To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me,” she said in the viral tweet, which has been received more than half a million like in the past day,” Bozarjian tweeted shortly after the assault. “No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”
To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better. https://t.co/PRLXkBY5hn
— Alex Bozarjian (@wsavalexb) December 7, 2019
Callaway’s lawyer, Joseph Turner, called his client a “loving husband and father who is very active in his community” and local church, insisting he was “working with those involved to correct the situation. While we regret the situation, Mr. Callaway did not act with any criminal intentions.”
Speaking on CBS TV’s “This Morning” on Tuesday, Bozarjian said Callaway “did try to make contact” with her to say that “his intentions were not to hurt me, he didn’t intend to do it. I’m not going to really debate that — because he did hurt me,” she insisted of the slap that she said had a “heavy impact.”
“He separates himself from the runners, and he kind of winds up. And he hit me hard,” she said.
“He helped himself to a part of my body,” she added, saying it left her in “disbelief” and “inundated with some female guilt” because of some of the harsh online comments suggesting she was at fault. It’s not OK to help yourself to a woman’s body just because you feel like it. It’s not playful. He hurt me, both physically and emotionally.”
“I think what is most important here is he took my power, and I’m trying to take that back,” she said.