"He traded in the currency of children's suffering," federal prosecutor Steve Grocki said.
Ward, a father of four known for his staunchly liberal views, hosted a nightly radio show until the station fired him when the child pornography indictment was made public in December.
A Stanislaus County woman who exchanged sexually explicit Internet messages with him called police after Ward sent her a photograph of two children engaged in a sex act.
She also provided police with transcripts of a conversation where Ward said he was aroused when his daughter walked in the bathroom while he showered, according to court documents.
"I find it extremely troubling that a parent would say the things he wrote in those messages," U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said before sentencing him to seven years and three months.
Ward's attorney, Doron Weinberg, had argued for five years, the mandatory minimum prison sentence. He cited numerous letters of support Ward received after pleading guilty and Ward's volunteer work.
Weinberg has said Ward downloaded the child porn for journalistic research.
"It's clear that it ended in a dark place," Weinberg said. "Bernie Ward is a good man."
Slideshow archive | ABC13 wireless | Help solve crimes