Coach's wife: Porn charges 'baseless'

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2012 - 6:43 AM

Videos of their kids dancing naked are "typical kids being silly."

MANKATO - The wife of Minnesota State University, Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner on Monday called child pornography charges against him "ridiculous and baseless."

Melodee Hoffner spoke to the media for the first time since her husband was charged in Blue Earth County District Court last week after videos of their 9-, 8- and 5-year-old children dancing nude were found on his school-issued cellphone by a university IT professional.

"My family does what every family does -- we take videos and pictures of our kids in all their craziness," she said at a lectern in the lobby of Maschka, Riedy & Ries, the Mankato law firm representing her husband. "I am confident that when all of the facts are known, these videos will be understood as innocent videos of typical kids being silly."

Court records said Todd Hoffner brought the phone to the IT department Aug. 10 because it was malfunctioning.

The coach, who posted $40,000 bail following a court hearing, is on paid administrative leave. A university investigation is pending.

Attorney Gerald Maschka said Melodee Hoffner wanted to speak "because of the rush to judgment against Todd Hoffner and because of the impact these events have had on her family."

Melodee Hoffner appeared defiant and frustrated, but her voice cracked at times during her statement. She said she and her husband had "no idea" why he was placed on leave and escorted from the football practice field by university officials Aug. 17. When deputies came to their Eagle Lake home to arrest him four days later, "both Todd and I were in complete shock." she said.

"I thought 'Those are our family videos they are talking about,'" she said.

Capt. Rich Murry, of the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office, said Monday that the decision to charge Todd Hoffner didn't come lightly. In addition to evidence obtained during a search of the coach's house, investigators spoke with his children before he was charged.

"There were a number of people who had input into it," Murry said. "It's a tough situation. ... Our main interest is the safety of the children," he said.

According to the charges, in one video, all three drop towels and jump around naked, while the 8-year-old boy fondles himself and the two girls bend over and spread their buttocks. In a second video, the girls are dancing naked and the boy enters naked, wearing a football helmet. In the third video, one of the girls is shown being awakened in bed and told by a male voice "to go potty" before she is followed to the bathroom in her underwear with the camera focused on her buttocks.

Melodee Hoffner offered an explanation for the video showing her daughter walking to the bathroom, saying that the girl has "difficulty during the night," so she and her husband wake her to use the bathroom. Hoffner said the daughter would be half-asleep when they woke her and would not remember, so the parents took video to show her. Melodee Hoffner said her daughter was clothed in that video.

She described their children as engaging and creative. "I am a licensed school counselor and I am fully aware of the signs and indicators of children who have been abused," she said. "I assure you our children have not been exploited or abused -- they are healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, and have normal relationships with friends, family and teachers."

Maschka said the charges against Todd Hoffner were made by well-intentioned people but "resulted in a mistake. Our hope and expectation is that he will be reinstated as the university's football coach," he said.

So far, no additional evidence or images or videos of any other minors has been found, authorities said.

Two colleges -- the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the University of South Dakota -- where Hoffner coached before taking the Minnesota State job in 2008 -- are reviewing his computer and cellphone records while he was employed at the schools.

Prosecuting attorney Michael Hanson, who had declined to comment on the case last week, is out of the office this week and could not be reached Monday.

University spokesman Dan Benson declined to comment.

Staff writer Chris Havens contributed to this report. Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425

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