- Associated Press - Friday, November 30, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A judge threw out child pornography charges against a Minnesota college football coach Friday, agreeing with his assertion that cellphone video of his kids dancing naked after a bath was nothing more than innocent child’s play.

Todd Hoffner, the head coach at Minnesota State University-Mankato, has been on administrative leave since the videos were discovered on his university-issued cellphone in August.

Hoffner testified earlier that his three young children asked him to videotape a skit they had concocted. His wife, Melodee, defended him, as did supporters who held candlelight vigils on his behalf. A later 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.

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 in her 24-page ruling.

Hoffner’s attorneys declined comment ahead of a Friday afternoon news conference.

Mike Hanson, an assistant county prosecutor who handled the case, said in a statement that his office didn’t agree with the dismissal but accepted it.

“Our office was trying to enforce a statute enacted to protect children,” he said. “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.”

Dan Benson, a university spokesman, said Hoffner would remain on administrative leave pending the school’s own investigation. He had no timetable for when that could be completed.

Hoffner, 46, of Eagle Lake, was charged in August with one count of using minors in a sexual performance or pornographic work and one count of possessing child pornography. Both are felonies.

He has been sidelined for what has turned into an outstanding season for the Mavericks. They are 12-0 and host Missouri Western on Saturday in the national Division II quarterfinals.

At an earlier hearing on his motion for dismissal, Hoffner testified he had told his children to go take a bubble bath last June so he could get some work done. Hoffner said the children later came down in towels and asked him to videotape them. He said he never directed the kids, and never watched the video afterward or showed it to anyone.

The videos came to light after Hoffner took his problematic cellphone to work to be checked out.

The coach was escorted off the football practice field on Aug. 17 by university officials after the school turned the videos over to police, and he was arrested four days later.

Prosecutor Mike Hanson had argued earlier that the decision on whether or not the videos were pornography should be left to a jury, and disputed the claim that the images were innocent family fun.

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