Liberal talk show host Bernie Ward has been indicted on child pornography charges and surrendered to federal authorities this morning. Specifically he is charged with two counts of allegedly transmitting and receiving child pornography by way of the Internet three years ago. Ward, who is married and the father of four, could face up to five years in prison if convicted on each of the two counts.
Ward's lawyer, Doron Weinberg, said the pornography was related to research Ward was doing for a book three years ago on hypocracy in America. As part of the research, Ward downloaded "a few images" of child pornography, and, Weinberg told the Chronicle, "it came to the attention of the government in late 2004."
Details of the allegations are sealed as part of the federal indictment and there was no immediate explanation from prosecutors as to why the indictment came now, three years later.
"Obviously this is not a dangerous man, obviously not a predator, and the government knows that or they wouldn't have waited three-plus years to act," Weinberg told KCBS-AM 740. (KCBS Podcast of Weinberg interview)
"He's devastated by this," Weinberg added.
Jeannette Boudreau, Ward's agent, told KCBS (KCBS podcast) that it is possible he is being targeted by federal prosecutors. "That does spring to mind. He is a very vocal, anti-Bush administration talk show host who has a wide audience and a big reach, especially at night [because] KGO is a 50,000-watt station, and it wouldn't surprise me ... it's hard to avoid that conclusion."
Ward, 56, is a former Roman Catholic priest who, in addition to his weeknight show, also hosts "God Talk," a religious program, on Sunday mornings.
Jack Swanson, KGO's operations director, said in a statement: “Bernie Ward has been a valued, long-time employee of KGO Radio. 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. A substitute host will do the 10 p.m.–1 a.m., Monday–Friday broadcast and the Sunday morning 'God Talk' broadcast."
UPDATE, 5:15 P.M. — The FBI searched Ward's house and seized his computer in 2005, Weinberg tells Bay City News. The search never made the news; Ward has apparently been aware that he was under investigation since then.
Weinberg said that since Ward's computer was seized, he was not able to finish his book. It was not immediately known if prosecutors attempted to seize computers Ward used at KGO.
Weinberg told BCN that the indictment was issued in late October but prosecutors agreed to keep it sealed while Ward conducted his annual Thanksgiving Charities drive, which raises thousands of dollars annually for hungry and homeless people in the Bay Area.
Weinberg said he expects the indictment to be unsealed within the next few days, following Ward's court appearance today.
Weinberg said that the case stems from an "error of judgment" Ward made when he spent a few days in 2004 looking at pornography images and exchanging images with other adults when doing research for a book on hypocrisy.
The attorney said, "It's really tragic that the government has decided to prosecute him for a judgment he made as a journalist and to treat him as a child pornographer when he is not." (Photo credit: Vince Maggiora, Chronicle, 1995 file photo, via AP)