Former Radio Host Expected to Change Plea

San Jose Mercury News
May 7, 2008

Former radio talk show host Bernie Ward is expected to enter a change of plea to Internet child pornography charges at a federal court hearing in San Francisco on Thursday, according to his lawyer.

Defense attorney Doron Weinberg confirmed Wednesday that Ward, 57, 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.

Ward, a former host on KGO radio in San Francisco, is currently charged with three counts in an indictment filed last year.

The charges are sending child pornography via the Internet on Dec. 23, 2004; attempting to send child pornography via the Internet between Jan. 1 and 13, 2005; and knowingly receiving such material between Jan. 1 and 13, 2005.

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 cannot be used as an admission of guilt in a civil lawsuit.

Ward, a former Catholic priest, is married, has four children and lives in San Francisco. He had been scheduled to go to trial on the three counts in Walker's court on June 9.

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

Police reports filed by the Oakdale

Police Department in Stanislaus County in 2004 and 2005 allege that an Oakdale woman told police that Ward sent her an image of child pornography on Dec. 23, 2004.

The case was eventually turned over to the FBI, the police reports said.

Thursday's court session was originally scheduled as a pretrial hearing on Ward's bid for the right to present a First Amendment defense, in which he would argue at trial that he had "a legitimate, journalistic purpose" for his actions.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section had filed papers opposing the motion.

Ward previously hosted a nighttime show on KGO Monday through Friday and a Sunday morning show called Godtalk.


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