Youth minister who slapped reporter’s behind during live shot pleads guilty

Thomas Callaway in police custody: (Chatham County Sheriff's Deaprtment)
Thomas Callaway in police custody: (Chatham County Sheriff's Deaprtment)

A Georgia man who slapped a reporter’s bottom live on air has pleaded guilty to to a misdemeanour charge of sexual battery.

Thomas Callaway was sentenced to a year probation and fined $1,000 (£750) by a Savannah judge on Wednesday after he entered his plea at Chatham County Recorder’s Court.

The 44-year-old, who is a married youth minister, was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, according to CBS News.

Callaway was arrested in December 2019, after he was filmed live on television, swatting the rear end of WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian, while she was reporting on a road race in Savannah that he was taking part in.

In the aftermath of the incident, as the clip was widely shared on social media, Ms Bozarjian tweeted: “You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me,” and added: “No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”

During a later interview on CBS’s This Morning, the reporter said: “He took my power, and I’m trying to take that back,” and added: “I think what it really comes down to is that he helped himself to a part of my body.”

Ms Bozarjian told CBS that she thinks the clip was shared widely on social media because “the emotion is extremely relatable for women all over the world.”

Although his identity was unknown in the immediate hours after the incident, Callaway came forward later in the day and gave an on camera apology to the reporter and said he never intended to slap her rear.

Callaway told Inside Edition: “I was getting ready to bring my hands up and wave to the camera to the audience, there was a misjudge in character and decision-making. I touched her back; I did not know exactly where I touched her.”

the 44-year-old said that he did not even realise he touched her bottom until he saw the footage afterwards, but the reporter claimed Callaway slapped her and then grabbed her buttocks, according to the Daily Mail.

However, Callaway did admit that he was “disappointed” in his actions, and after being read Ms Bozarjian’s tweet said: “I totally agree 100 per cent with her statement. The two most important words were her last two words, ‘do better,’ and that’s my intention.”

Speaking outside the courtroom after Callaway was sentenced on Wednesday, the reporter told WSAV-TV: “A non-consensual butt slap may seem harmless to some people.

“Other people would go as far as to call it flattering, but that’s obviously a toxic thought pattern because what Callaway did on that bridge validates the idea that I don’t deserve my own personal space. It also reinforces the belief that as a woman, my body doesn’t belong to me.”

Ms Bozarjian confirmed that Mr Callaway had attempted to “apologise a number of times,” but added: “I have all my power intact today and I forgave him.

“All I really hope is that, going forward in the future he will do better.”

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TV reporter smacked on bottom during broadcast: ‘You violated me’