Ward sentenced to 7 years for child porn

August 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former KGO Radio host Bernie Ward was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison for trading child porn. The judge referred specifically to information uncovered by the ABC7 News I-Team.

Ward's sentence could have been worse -- prosecutors had asked for nine years. The judge also did Ward a favor, and our legal analyst says it was quite unusual.

Ward arrived at federal court in San Francisco Thursday morning with his wife and three of his four children.

Inside court, Ward stood before the judge and made a brief statement, including the words, "I regret my actions, I regret the harm they caused... I want to apologize to my family and to this court for these actions and I take full responsibility, your honor."

Then, Judge Vaughn Walker decided the sentence -- seven years, three months -- based in part on what Ward told close friend Michael Pritchard in the halls of KGO Radio, a few days after the FBI raided his home.

Michael Pritchard: "That he's, you know, viewed some stuff, and I knew immediately what that meant because there's nothing on the Internet other than that that's going to cause the Federal Bureau of Investigation to actually come to your home."

Dan Noyes: "Did he actually say child porn?"

Michael Pritchard: "Yes."

Dan Noyes: "And you asked him for how long?"

Michael Pritchard: "For a year."

Dan Noyes: "And he said for a year?"

Michael Pritchard: "He said for a year."

The judge discussed another I-Team report in which we uncovered complaints of sexual misconduct against Ward when he was a priest. Judge Walker decided the complaints may say something about Ward's character, but should not be used in sentencing because they occurred so long ago.

After court, Ward's wife unleashed her anger on the federal government.

"The justice department sure hasn't got any of the real terrorists out there, they got us into a war that was based on a lie, they can't control the economy, they can't control gas prices, but oh boy, they got that really dangerous criminal Bernie Ward off the street and have destroyed his family. I thank you all very much," said Dr. Colleen Halloran, Ward's wife.

Ward's attorney blasted mandatory sentencing guidelines.

"The laws have gotten completely out of hand. They have nothing to do with the purpose of the pornography laws which is to control the creation and dissemination of this stuff, not to punish end users," said Doron Weinberg, Ward's attorney.

Judge Walker said he wanted Ward to be able to surrender with dignity, so he gave him until noon Friday to turn himself in to federal marshals.

ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says that is a very unusual move -- a favor to Ward because of his celebrity.

"Anybody else, if this were John Smith who plead to these charges, he would have been handcuffed and taken out the side door and he'd be on a bus to Santa Rita right now, but this was Bernie Ward," said Johnson.

On the way out, Ward would not tell us how he will spend his last night of freedom before beginning his prison sentence.

"There isn't much to say," said Ward.

Ward will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence, so the earliest he could get out would be October of 2014. He also faces lifetime supervision and will be listed as a sex offender on Megan's Law.

For more on the details from inside Thursday's court proceedings, read the I-Team blog.

I-Team Extras

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