Dan Gross: Radio host in hot water

Tom Byrne
Tom Byrne
Posted: January 18, 2012

IF YOU'RE GOING to play the "I'm a celebrity" card and expect free cab rides, people should probably know who you are. But that didn't stop 97.5 The Fanatic nighttime host Tom Byrne (who?) from using his "celebrity" to try to beat a cab driver out of $5 before allegedly beating him in the street, according to a police report.

Byrne, who'll be 31 next week, was arrested about 2 a.m. Monday, after the cabbie told police that Byrne, whom he picked up a few minutes earlier at 12th and Sansom streets, had punched him repeatedly.

The driver told police that Byrne had asked him to pull over at 6th and Pine, at which point he began to exit the cab without paying.

When the driver asked for payment of $5, he said, Byrne refused to pay and said: "I'm a celebrity. This is my neighborhood. What are you gonna do about it?"

The driver said he began to follow Byrne down the street, at which point Byrne, host of a sports-talk show, "grabbed the complainants glasses and knocked them off his face. Defendant punched complainant in face several times and dragged him," said Officer Tanya Little, quoting the arrest report.

Police apprehended Byrne at 7th and Pine and he spent the night in jail. His girlfriend posted his bail of $500 Monday night. He was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, robbery and theft of services, police said. He has a preliminary hearing Feb. 3.

Byrne was scheduled to work his shift last night, but the station decided about 6:30 that he would not work. Byrne declined comment through 97.5's program director, Matt Nahigian. Nahigian also declined comment on how long Byrne would be off-air, or whether he had been suspended.

Byrne, who grew up in Bucks County, hosts from 7 to 10 p.m. weekdays on the Fanatic, and also the Eagles post-game shows. He announced basketball games for the University of Scranton, which he attended, and later worked at 1490 WBCB-AM. Byrne started working for ESPN 950 AM/97.5 The Fanatic in 2008.

Rollins, wife expecting

Congratulations to Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and his wife, Johari, who are expecting their first child. We had been trying to confirm that she was pregnant for more than a week when, there, buried in an ESPN.com story about J-Roll's trip to help Ugandan Little League players, that "At the end of each day, he goes back to his hotel and writes in his journal so that his wife, Johari, who is pregnant with their first child, can experience what he has been seeing and doing." No word yet on when Johari, a Mount Airy-native fitness instructor, is due.

She has not returned requests for comment, nor have several of Jimmy's representatives.

Anchor shifts

NBC 10 viewers have noticed that Terry Ruggles has been missing from the early-morning news desk. Ruggles has been reassigned to general-assignment reporting, confirms a station spokeswoman, who said that a new anchor for the morning show position has not been selected.

* Fox 29's Kerry Barrett has been named weekday-evening co-anchor, the station announced yesterday. Barrett, who lived in Hatboro for a few years as a child, began as a freelancer at the station in 2008 and became an anchor/reporter in 2010. She'll work with Thomas Drayton on the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Bolaris cleans out desk

John Bolaris was seen entering Fox 29 about 7:30 Monday morning.

We're told he was there to clean out his personal effects.

As we reported last week, Bolaris and Fox 29 decided to part ways after he was suspended for two weeks over repeated altercations with management and over its displeasure with comments he made in a recent Playboy story.

Visit PhillyGossip.com for Dan's latest updates or follow @PhillyGossip on Twitter. Have a tip? Call 215-854-5963, or email grossd@phillynews.com. For recent columns, visit philly.com/DanGross.

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