An American man who slapped a reporter's backside on live television has been arrested on charges of sexual battery and may face a year in jail.
WSAV journalist Alex Bozarjian was reporting live from the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run on December 7 in Georgia when Thomas Callaway, 43, ran past and slapped her backside. Bozarjian abruptly stopped, clearly in shock, before continuing her report.
The incident prompted widespread backlash after the clip was heavily circulated on social media. Police opened an investigation into the case after Bozarjian reported the incident.
On Friday (local time), Callaway turned himself in and was arrested by the Savannah Police Department on charges of sexual battery. He has been released on a US$1300 bond and a court date is pending, BuzzFeed News reports.
In a statement to WSAV, Bozarjian's lawyer, Gloria Allred, said the reporter feels she "should be able to do her job without being assaulted".
She also added that Bozarjian is "glad that law enforcement is taking this matter seriously".
According to Georgia legislation, sexual battery is committed when someone "intentionally makes physical contact with the intimate parts of the body of another person without the consent of that person".
"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 on anywhere! Do better," Bozarjian addressed Callaway in a scathing post on Twitter.
In an interview with CBS' This Morning, Bozarjian shut down opinions on social media that dubbed the incident "a bit of fun".
"It's not playful... it's not okay to help yourself to a woman's body just because you feel like it."
Callaway attempted to justify his actions to Inside Edition, saying he was "caught up in the moment". He also claimed he "did not know" where he touched her.
The 43-year-old's lawyer, Joseph Turner, told WTOC that the "loving husband and father... did not act with any criminal intentions".
Callaway also issued an apology in an interview with WSAV, calling the incident "an awful mistake".
"I am not that person that people are portraying me as... I'm not perfect and I'm asking for forgiveness," he said.
Bozarjian's employer, WSAV, labelled Callaway's conduct as "reprehensible and completely unacceptable" in a statement.
"No one should ever be disrespected in this manner," the outlet said.
Robert Wells, director of the Savannah Sports Council, told the Washington Post the 43-year-old is banned from participating in any future races organised by the council.