Trial Set for Radio Host Bernie Ward on Child Porn Charges

NBC 11
January 24, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — Former radio talk show host Bernie Ward was given a date of June 9 in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday for a trial on charges of receiving and distributing child pornography on his computer.

The trial date was set by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who also scheduled a hearing on pretrial motions for April 24.

Ward, 56, a former host on KGO radio in San Francisco, is accused of three counts of receiving child pornography, knowingly distributing it and attempting to distribute it in December 2004 and January 2005.

His defense attorney, Doron Weinberg, has contended the case stems from an "error of judgment" made by Ward when he spent a few days looking at pornography images and exchanging images with other adults when doing research for a book on hypocrisy.

Outside of court on Thursday, Weinberg said he is looking into two areas of possible pretrial motions that might challenge the charges.

One area is whether there is a First Amendment or journalistic research exception to prosecution under criminal pornography laws, Weinberg said.

The second area is whether federal laws setting penalties for Internet child pornography are arbitrary and unfair, the attorney said.

Weinberg said that while pornography possession carries penalties as low as no time in prison, the charges of receiving and distributing child pornography each carry a mandatory five-year sentence upon conviction.

Weinberg said, "We're deeply disappointed" that U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors chose to level charges carrying the "most serious and harshest" penalty.

The defense attorney contended, "The government has seized a moment in someone's life and treated him as though he were a lifelong predator, when even at worst he was someone who was involved for a matter of days."

Ward said in the hallway of the Federal Building courthouse that his current contract with KGO was terminated on Dec. 31, but that he and his agent are negotiating for a new contract and hope he will eventually return to the air.

Ward, a former Catholic priest who is married and has four children, previously hosted a nighttime 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. show Monday through Friday and a Sunday morning show called Godtalk on KGO.

He was charged in an indictment that was issued under seal in September and unsealed on Dec. 7, the day after he pleaded not guilty to the charges.


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