MANKATO, MINN. (AP) - A Minnesota college football coach said he wants to return to work now that a judge has dismissed prosecutors’ claims that video he took of his children playing after a bath amounted to pornography.
A judge sided with Todd Hoffner, head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato, by throwing out the child porn charges against him on Friday. The judge said the cellphone video was nothing more than children playfully dancing naked after a bath.
“I’m just so thankful to be waking up from this nightmare,” Hoffner said after the ruling, which came more than three months after the coach was escorted off a practice field and later arrested.
Now, Hoffner said, he wants to get back on the sideline. But it’s unclear when that may happen.
Hoffner remains on administrative leave and won’t be on the field Saturday when his undefeated Mavericks host Missouri Western in the Division II quarterfinals.
The university said he would remain on leave until its own investigation was complete, and school spokesman Don Benson said he had no timetable as to when that might happen.
Hoffner testified earlier that his three young children asked him to videotape a skit they had concocted after taking a bubble bath. His wife has defended him, as have supporters who even held candlelight vigils on his behalf.
A search of his home computer found no evidence of child porn, and social workers found no evidence that the couple’s children had been abused. Hoffner said he had never even watched the video.
In her 24-page ruling Friday, Blue Earth County District Judge Krista Jass said she didn’t find any evidence that the videos amounted to pornography.
“The videos under consideration here contain nude images of Defendant’s minor children dancing and acting playful after a bath. That is all they contain,” Jass wrote.
Fleming singled out the assistant county prosecutor who brought the charges, Mike Hanson, saying he “essentially argued that this was child pornography because he knows it when he sees it.”
But Hanson said his office was only trying to enforce a law enacted to protect children.
“No matter what the prosecutor does in a controversial case with a high-profile suspect, they will be criticized. We do not go looking for cases like this, they are brought to us,” the prosecutor said in a statement.