ASHEVILLE — Federal prosecutors Friday reviewed a court transcript in which a WLOS-TV reporter describes prodding a source to smoke marijuana for a news story and referred the case to the Buncombe County district attorney.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards said he sent the case to Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore’s office “for them to handle in whatever manner they deem appropriate.”
In a WLOS report about the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Steven William Ward was seen rolling a joint and puffing on it. Ward, at the time of the June 8 broadcast, was awaiting sentencing in federal court for threatening to kill a judge.
His probation officer saw the footage, resulting in a hearing Tuesday in which U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell revoked Ward’s probation and sent him to prison. The judge found that Ward had violated the terms of his probation by using drugs.
Probation officer Eric Simpson testified that after the segment aired, Ward said he took two puffs of marijuana but didn’t inhale. But in a later interview Ward denied the substance was marijuana, as he did on the stand during Tuesday’s hearing. Simpson also said a drug test performed on Ward turned up negative.
In closing arguments to the judge, Edwards called the claim the substance wasn’t marijuana “just incredible” and said a drug test could easily come back negative if only one or two puffs were taken.