A man is arrested in Ohlone Park after police responded to a call of a man who was touching his genitals near a group of children, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, Aug 3. Photo: David Yee
Michael Ward was arrested in Ohlone Park in August after police responded to a call of a man who was touching his genitals near a group of children. Photo: David Yee

A man with a criminal record for indecent exposure is set to be sentenced this week after Berkeley police officers say he masturbated near playground children at Ohlone Park in August.

According to court papers, Michael Ward, 32, was naked — with only a jacket draped over his lap — when police contacted him Aug. 3 at the North Berkeley park just before 2 p.m. He was on probation for indecent exposure after a 2014 arrest in Berkeley on Fifth Street.

One witness told police Ward was masturbating near a children’s playground while children were in the area. Ward, who has no listed home address, “was seated a few feet away from a playground.” When the witness saw him, he was wearing just socks and a shirt, and had a jacket over his lap.

According to an individual in the area, Ward was a regular camper in the park.

The witness told Ward “his behavior was not appropriate,” and saw Ward touching himself, with his genitals partially exposed. He was “making a masturbation movement,” according to court papers.

Ward reportedly told the witness, in response to the concerns, “It’s my birthday! I’m not even here!”

It was, in fact, Ward’s birthday.

The witness then called police and directed them to Ward.

He was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure and probation violation.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Ward in August with felony indecent exposure with a prior indecent exposure charge. A conviction would require him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

There’s also a special allegation classifying the felony as violent. If upheld in court, Ward could be sent to prison.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, Sept. 15, at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

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Emilie Raguso (senior editor, news) joined the Berkeleyside team in 2012. She covers politics, public safety and development. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...