KGO Talk Show Host Bernie Ward Indicted on Child Porn Charges

Associated Press, carried in San Jose Mercury News
December 6, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - Popular radio talk show host and former Catholic priest Bernie Ward surrendered to authorities Thursday, after being indicted on federal child pornography charges.

Ward, 56, hosts a nightly news talk program on KGO-AM 810, as well as the religion program "Godtalk" on Sundays. The specifics of the indictment remain under seal, but KGO's Web site says Ward was indicted on two counts of using the Internet to obtain child pornography.

Ward's lawyer told KGO the alleged pornography involves research Ward did more than four years ago for a book.

"He was doing research," said Jeanette Boudreau, Ward's business lawyer. "For him to be charged this way for what probably amounts to a technical violation of the law is a tragedy."

Calls to Ward's attorney, Doron Weinberg, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, weren't returned.

"We were pretty surprised about this," said KGO's Operations Director Jack Swanson. "I can't say anything else."

Ward was released on his own recognizance Thursday, said Stephanie Salter, Ward's friend and a former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Salter has collaborated with Ward on investigative stories and is godmother to one of his children.

"I know Bernie as a dad, a talk-show guy and an investigative reporter," says Salter, now a columnist for a paper in Terre Haute, Ind. "This is utterly inconsistent with those three facets of Bernie. It doesn't jibe with what I know."

Ward is a frequent voice offering commentary on politics on various national cable network news programs. He produced an award-winning series that explored allegations of financial and sexual misconduct in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, according to the KGO Web site.

Ward, a San Francisco resident known for being a liberal firebrand, is married with four children. He left the priesthood more than two decades ago, said his friend Susan Prather, the executive director of Fresh Start, a Walnut Creek-based service organization for the homeless.

"People need to remember the good things he's done in the community," Prather said. "He's a good man. I think he made a tragic mistake and I pray he'll be exonerated. He was doing research and didn't do anything wrong."

Prather said Ward helped raise more than $1 million for Fresh Start and three other charities over the years, as well as helping to keep a medical clinic in Richmond open.

Word of Ward's arrest also caught many by surprise in the South Bay, where Ward has a large following. In 2005, Ward - who once taught at the Bellarmine College Preparatory - served as master of ceremonies for a fundraiser for Sacred Heart Nativity School.

Poncho Guevara, the executive director of Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, called Ward's arrest "devastating, because many people may question his other activities and work."

Though the details remain under seal, federal law stipulates that possessing any kind of child pornography is illegal, whatever the reason. Congress has gone a step further, making it a federal crime to advertise, promote or distribute material, even if it only purports to show child pornography. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to the law.

Salter said she and Ward spoke more than a year ago about his idea for a book centered on hypocrisy in America, and "people pretending to be family values people when they're not."

"Psychiatric researchers can't even get to this stuff to treat people without breaking the law," she said.

On the KGO Web site, Swanson wrote that "We were just recently made aware of these serious charges and are surprised and concerned by their nature. As the matter is currently pending in federal court, we will have no additional comment at this time. Thursday, a substitute host will take over Ward's radio shows, broadcasted 10 p.m.-1 a.m., Monday-Friday and Sunday's morning Godtalk broadcast."


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