Former radio talk show host Bernie Ward is asking a federal judge for permission to use a First Amendment defense when he goes on trial in July on charges of receiving and distributing child pornography on his computer.
Ward's lawyer filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to allow him to argue he had "a legitimate, journalistic purpose" for his actions because he was doing research for a book. The motion was filed earlier this month and was reported by Bay City News today.
Ward, a liberal who had hosted KGO-AM 810's 10 p.m.-to-1 a.m. shift for several years, posed online using the name "Vincentlio." He had conversations with a woman identified online as "Sexfairy" who later turned him into police after she allegedly received pictures of children ranging in age from 4 to 17 who were "engaged in or simulating sesxual acts with adults or other children," according to a police report.
Ward, the author of several previous books and articles, says in the 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.
"If given the chance at trial, Mr. Ward will offer proof that he received and distributed the contraband exclusively for the
purpose of furthering his research, and that he intended to destroy the material upon completion of his journalistic enterprise," wrote Ward's lawyer, Doron Weinberg, in the motion.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section opposed the motion in a response filed on Thursday, BCN reported.
The prosecutors wrote, "The law provides no First Amendment-based license to journalists to violate laws."
They argued that allowing Ward to present a free-speech defense "would invite every defendant charged with child pornography crimes to suddenly become a legitimate researcher educating the masses via their Web blog." (Photo credit: KTUV)
CORRECTION:Earlier this post misidentified "Sexfairy." This item has since been corrected.