A Minnesota district court judge has dismissed the case against Todd Hoffner, the head coach of the Minnesota State University football team.
Hoffner, 46, was charged with one felony count of using minors in a sexual performance or pornographic work and one felony count of possessing child pornography related to three short videos of his children found on his cell phone. The decision was met with extreme relief by Hoffner, his family and the community.
In a case that lasted just three months, prosecutors claimed that Hoffner made sexually exploitative videos of his three children, ages 5, 8 and 9, dancing naked and making lewd gestures. The videos were discovered in early August when Hoffner took his malfunctioning university-issued Blackberry to the school’s IT department for repairs. When transferring data to a different phone, the IT employee noticed the videos and alerted authorities.
Throughout this ordeal, Hoffner has insisted that the videos were innocent and merely captured a private family moment. When he took the stand to testify in his own defense in late October, Hoffner explained that he filmed his children one night in June after they had just finished taking a bath. He said his children came downstairs in towels and asked him to record a skit they had come up with in the bathtub. The children dropped their towels and danced around, laughing, jumping and acting silly. Hoffner insisted that at no time during the video did he instruct or direct his children to act in any particular way. He also claimed he did not watch the video after the filming nor did he show it to anyone else.
Although Hoffner’s defense team pleaded with the prosecution to dismiss the case on several occasions, the county attorney refused–claiming his office was simply trying to enforce a law designed to protect children.
The videos were the only evidence in the prosecution’s case against Hoffner. After his arrest, authorities searched computers seized from Hoffner’s home and office and found no evidence of child pornography. A county child protective services specialist also found no evidence that Hoffner or his wife abused or mistreated their children. Additionally, three of Hoffner’s previous university employers reported discovering no evidence of illegal activities after reviewing computer and cell phone records.
The Minnesota district judge wrote a strong-worded opinion in which she ruled that Hoffner’s children were merely acting playfully after a bath in the videos. She went on to say that nothing in the videos could be construed as sexually stimulating and dismissed both felony charges for lack of probable cause.
Minnesota State began its own investigation into the matter back in August. Hoffner was suspended from his position as head coach with pay several days before he was arrested. Although Hoffner and his family remain optimistic, the university investigation is still ongoing, and Hoffner has not been reinstated as the head coach as of yet. Hoffner has been the head football coach at Minnesota State since 2008. He was named NSIC coach of the year in 2009.
Members of the Mankato community were reeling after Hoffner’s arrest. Only a year after the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal rocked Penn State University, many feel that authorities mishandled Hoffner’s case and jumped to premature conclusions that caused irreparable damage to the coach’s reputation and personal life. Hopefully, the university will reinstate Hoffner immediately so he can begin to put his life back together.
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