Report: Former Kgo Radio Host Bernie Ward to Change Plea

NBC 11
May 7, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — Former KGO radio talk show host Bernie Ward, who pleaded not guilty to distributing and receiving child pornography in December, is expected to change his plea in a federal court on Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The former host is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Thursday to change his please one month before the case is scheduled to go to trial, the newspaper said.

Ward, 56, is charged with three counts of receiving child pornography, knowingly distributing it and attempting to distribute it in December 2004 and January 2005.

The Chronicle reported that a police report said that the case against Ward began when he allegedly engaged in sexual chats with "an online dominatrix and allegedly sent her pictures of children engaged in sexual activity." Ward allegedly sent the Oakdale woman pictures in December 2004 showing children "engaged in or simulating sexual acts with adults or other children," the newspaper quoted the report as saying. Ward allegedly sent her a photo of a naked boy sitting on a chair between a topless woman and a clothed girl, the Chronicle reported the police report said.

Ward, the author of several previous books and articles, said in a court filing that he came into possession of the illegal photographs while doing research for a new book. Defense attorney Doron Weinberg has previously said the book was about hypocrisy.

Ward contends he should be allowed to argue the research was protected by the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech.

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.

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg confirmed on Wednesday that Ward is expected to change his previous not-guilty plea at the session before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.

But Weinberg declined to say to which charges Ward will plead and whether he will plead guilty or no contest.

In plea agreements, defendants sometimes plead guilty to fewer charges or lesser charges than those originally filed.

A no-contest plea is treated the same as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes, but can't be used as an admission of guilt in a civil lawsuit.

Weinberg said last year that the case stems from an "error of judgment" made by Ward while doing research for a book on hypocrisy.

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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