Report: Talk-show host weighs deal in porn case

Radio talk show host Bernie Ward is considering pleading no contest to child pornography charges as part of a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors, one of his attorneys confirmed.

Jeannette Boudreau, Ward’s business attorney and longtime friend, acknowledged that a five-year sentence has been one of the options discussed but said she wasn’t sure anything had been finalized.

The KGO host and former priest faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Boudreau, who said she believes Ward is innocent, said that if he took the plea agreement, it would be because going to trial would likely bankrupt him.

“I’m not sure he agreed to it, but the power the federal prosecutors have if it goes to trial, it would be extremely expensive for Bernie [to fight the charges],” Boudreau said.

Department of Justice spokesman Erik Ablin would not comment on the reported deal and Ward’s criminal lawyer, Doron Weinberg, did not return calls for comment.

On Wednesday, Ward pleaded not guilty to two counts of distribution of child pornography and one count of receipt of child pornography.

The federal grand jury indictment, which was unsealed Friday, alleges the crimes took place between Jan. 1 and Jan. 13, 2005. Ward claims he downloaded the images on the Internet while researching a book he was planning on hypocrisy in America.

Reports of a plea deal opened speculation that Ward may have been negotiating with federal prosecutors long before Wednesday, when the indictment was handed down.

Steven Clark, a San Jose defense attorney and legal analyst, said it’s not unusual for plea deals to be cemented before charges are filed.

“Negotiations can take place at any stage,” he said. “Sometimes precharging negotiations are done.”

Even if a jury believed Ward’s defense — that he was conducting research — it would not necessarily absolve him of the charges.

“It may be a mitigating factor, but it’s not a defense, because you can’t obtain it legally for any purposes,” Clark said.

Boudreau said Ward’s intense focus on his project might have blinded him to the legal implications.

“Bernie is just so intense,” she said. “If you listen to him on the air, he has to win the argument; he sort of pummels his opponent.”

“It makes sense that in his research, he would become narrowly focused, dive in and forget what he was doing and where he was and lose the broader perspective,” she said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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