Runner accused of groping reporter during live TV broadcast charged with sexual battery

WSAV reporter Alex Bozarjian had asked Georgia police to pursue charges against the man who groped and slapped her in the incident, which went viral on social media.

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By Phil Helsel

A runner accused of slapping and grabbing the backside of a female reporter during a race in Georgia last weekend was arrested Friday on a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery.

Thomas Callaway, 43, was arrested after turning himself in, Savannah police confirmed to NBC News Saturday. He was released on $1,300 bail.

Online jail records show that he was charged with sexual battery, a misdemeanor in Georgia that is punishable by up to a year in jail.

His attorney declined to comment to the Associated Press.

The Dec. 7 incident, which went viral on social media, happened while WSAV reporter Alex Bozarjian was in the middle of a livebroadcast as runners taking part in the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run streamed past.

WSAV's reporter Alex Bozarjian after a man in a long-sleeved blue shirt moves behind her and appears to hit her on her backside.WSAV

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The charge comes days after Bozarjian filed a sexual battery report with the Savannah Police Department, saying that she wanted them to pursue charges against the man who groped and slapped her.

She told police that he slapped and grabbed her buttocks in one motion as he ran past on the Talmadge Bridge, according to the complaint.

Bozarjian tweeted her outrage about the incident later that day, writing “No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!!”

That statement as of early Saturday had been retweeted more than 200,000 times and had more than 735,000 "likes."

Callaway has been banned from all future races by the Savannah Sports Council, which sponsored the run.

Callaway has told WSAV that he is sorry.

He said that "it was an awful act, it was an awful mistake," and he apologized to Bozarjian as well as her family, friends and co-workers.

He claimed to WSAV that as he approached he saw people passing the reporter waving hands and planned on doing the same, and that he knew he had touched her but did not know where as he ran past. He also said he had wanted to tap her on the shoulder or the back.

The video appears to show no attempt to try and wave.

"I feel awful, I feel embarrassed and ashamed," he said in the interview with the station after the incident. He apologized to Bozarjian and said "this was not right."

Bozarjian's attorney, Gloria Allred, told WSAV in an email Friday that "Alex is looking forward to justice in this case."

The station has condemned the conduct as "reprehensible and completely unacceptable” and that “No one should ever be disrespected in this manner." The station said Bozarjian has its full support.

Kalhan Rosenblatt and Associated Press contributed.