The progressive, former KGO talker and Catholic priest pleaded guilty in May to sending between 15 and 150 pornographic images by email, which he said were part of some book research.
His wife and four children attended the hearing, and speaking briefly, he took full responsibility, telling the judge, "I regret my actions, the harm they caused my family, my friends and this community."
Ward's case is a "personal tragedy," and a prison term may not be the best way to help him or the children exploited by pornography, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said as he imposed the sentence in a San Francisco courtroom. But he noted that federal law requires at least a five-year sentence, and said some aspects of the case were disturbing.
Walker said Ward, a former Roman Catholic priest whose KGO broadcasts included the Sunday morning "God Talk" program, "had an opportunity to think long, hard and deeply about the problems of child abuse" in the Catholic Church. Why, the judge asked, "when he encountered his own predilection (for child pornography), didn't he seek treatment, seek help?"
Walker said he would go along with a defense request that Ward serve his sentence - seven years and three months - in the minimum-security prison in Lompoc (Santa Barbara County). Prosecutors did not object. The judge gave Ward until noon today to turn himself in to federal marshals.
Ward's sentence could be reduced by about a year for good behavior in prison. After his release, he will be required for the rest of his life to register with police as a sex offender.
Ward holds a master's degree in theology and spent two years in the priesthood before leaving to get married. He worked for three years as a legislative assistant for then-Rep. Barbara Boxer before joining KGO in San Francisco as a reporter in 1985. He became a talk-show host in 1992 and held forth on news and politics for three hours every weeknight, while discussing religious issues on Sunday mornings.