The I-Team has learned the case against Bernie Ward began with a complaint to police in the Central Valley town of Oakdale. They quickly sent it to the FBI. Several people who are close to Bernie Ward tell the I-Team he and his family are stunned by these charges. However, there is some positive news for ward in this federal indictment.
The charges are very serious -- two counts, distribution of child pornography and one count, receipt of child porn. Each charge carries a maximum of 15 years in federal prison, but if convicted, Bernie Ward would probably serve much less time.
Former prosecutor, Dean Johnson, is ABC7's legal analyst.
"As a practical matter, this type of crime calls for a guideline sentence of anywhere from about 24 to 30 months, giving him the best case scenario," says Johnson.
"The one thing Bernie is not is a child pornographer. He's not a child molester," says Jeannette Boudreau, Bernie Ward's agent.
Ward's agent told the I-Team last night the talk show host was working on a book, exploring the subculture of child porn on the Internet, and that ward admits trading pictures with other people he met online.
Dan Noyes: "Was that a mistake in your mind?"
Jeannette Boudreau: "Apparently it was, because it apparently violated the law. So, I would say it was, I mean, when you think about the law, a journalist doing research into that area, can't really -- he's pretty hamstrung, he can't do the research, see the images, if he does, he's violated federal law. He could be charged with that."
Ward told SFGate.com last night, "I'd like to say what this is not. It's not child abuse. It wasn't solicitation. I wasn't part of any ring. Most importantly, there was nothing on my computer. None of this was for titillation or entertainment."
The indictment lists a narrow window of time in which Ward accessed and traded child porn -- December 23rd, 2004 and January 1st through the 13th, 2005.
Dean Johnson says that's good news for Ward.
"The timeframe in my mind really gives credence to what Mr. Ward said about this being an isolated incident, that it wasn't motivated by any desire to possess child pornography or exploit children, but rather that he was researching a book or whatever he claimed," says Johnson.
Johnson says child porn is similar to illegal drugs in one way -- just possessing it is a crime, no matter what your intention. We'll see how this plays out.
Also today, Bernie Ward's attorney, Doron Weinberg, announced from Los Angeles that he's taking on another high profile client, Phil Spector and his retrial on murder charges.
You can read the indictment in the Bernie Ward case here.
There's also a lively discussion going on in the comments section of our blog from yesterday, here.
Have a tip on this or another investigation? E-mail the ABC7 I-Team or call 1-888-40-I-TEAM.