Popular San Francisco radio talk-show host Bernie Ward, a former priest known for his brash style and liberal politics, was indicted on federal charges of child pornography Thursday.
Ward pleaded not guilty to two countsof using the Internet to send and receive child pornography, his attorney confirmed.
Ward’s attorney, Doron Weinberg, said the indictment was issued in late October but prosecutors agreed to keep it sealed while Ward conducted his annual Thanksgiving Charities drive, which according to KGO raises thousands of dollars annually for hungry and homeless people in the Bay Area.
His employer, KGO Operations Director Jack Swanson, issued a statement expressing shock at the charges.
“Bernie Ward has been a valued, longtime employee of KGO Radio. We were just recently made aware of these serious charges and are surprised and concerned by their nature,” Swanson stated. He refused further comment, citing the matter’s pending legal status.
A substitute host will take over Ward’s nighttime, politics-focused show as well as his Sunday morning Godtalk broadcast. Ward, the self-professed “Lion of the Left,” lives in San Francisco with his wife and four children.
Weinberg, said the case stems from an “error of judgment” Ward made when he spent a few days in 2004 looking at pornographic images and exchanging images with other adults when doing research for a book on hypocrisy.
“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,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg is also the defense attorney for Dr. William Ayres, the once-famed child psychiatrist San Mateo County officials have charged with molesting several boys. He has also represented record producer and murder suspect Phil Spector.
Wire reports contributed to this story.