MANKATO, Minn. - Child pornography charges have been dismissed against a college football coach who has long proclaimed his innocence.
Blue Earth County District Court Judge Krista Jass dismissed the charges against Minnesota State Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner Friday, granting a request by Hoffner's attorney to drop the charges which stem from videos found on his phone.
"In our society today, it is often difficult for people to do the right thing and to acknowledge that they made a mistake," Hoffner said. "I'll be the first to let you know that I am sorry for using my cell phone to videotape some innocent harmless, family moments. I didn't think twice when I used that phone to capture 102 seconds of family moments. At the time, I just thought I was being a good dad."
Hoffner was put on paid leave in August and charged with two felonies after videos of his children were found on a university-issued cellphone. Prosecutors maintained that the videos constituted a sexual performance, showing the children dancing naked and touching themselves.
Attorney Jim Fleming argued that the videos are not child pornography. He and Hoffner's wife have called them innocent family moments, and the couple has been widely supported in their community.
In her ruling Jass ruled that the state had failed to produce substantial evidence demonstrating probable cause to believe that Hoffner used of permitted his children to pose or model in a, quote "sexual performance."
The judge also ruled that the videos on Hoffner's phone did not constitute a pornographic work.
"This is total innocence. There was never a crime here. There was never behavior that arguable was a crime," Jerry Maschak, Hoffner's other attorney said.
The prosecutor in the case against says his office was simply enforcing the law.
Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Mike Hanson said he doesn't agree with the dismissal, but accepts it. Hanson said his office doesn't go looking for such cases.
Hanson said neither he nor the county prosecutor would have any additional comment.
While charges against the coach have been dismissed that doesn't mean he automatically gets his job back at Minnesota State-Mankato. Dan Benson, a spokesman for the university, says Hoffner will remain on administrative leave pending the school's own investigation.
Benson said he had no timetable for when that investigation would end.
Hoffner has been on leave all season. In that time the Mavericks are 12-0 and have reached the national playoff quarterfinals in Division II.
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