By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Videos of nude children found on a Minnesota State University cell phone led to child pornography charges filed against its head football coach.
Those three videos, allegedly created by Todd Hoffner, show his three children dancing and jumping around while they are naked, according to a criminal complaint filed in Blue Earth County District Court Wednesday. The children are under the age of 10. Hoffner is charged with felony counts of using minors in a sexual performance and possessing pornographic work.
District Court Judge George Harrelson set Hoffner’s bail at $10,000 with condition he only have contact with his children while other adults are with him. Bail was set at $40,000 without conditions and the next hearing was set for Aug. 30.
Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Mike Hanson had requested that Hoffner not be allowed to have contact with his children. While arguing for a lower bail and against Hanson’s request, Hoffner’s attorney, Jim Fleming, told Harrelson that he didn’t agree that the videos were of a pornographic nature. What was described in the complaint didn’t show that the children were being abused or exploited, Fleming said.
“This could very well be seen as something completely different than what they are assuming,” he said.
After the hearing, Fleming again said the videos, as described, weren’t necessarily pornographic. He also said they were “private family moments that were videotaped.
“There is nothing in that video that is descriptive, graphic, abusive or exploitative,” he said.
The videos were turned over to the Mankato Police Department after they were found on Hoffner’s phone by another employee at the university. They were turned over to Blue Earth County Sheriff’s detectives because investigators suspected they were created at Hoffner’s home in Eagle Lake.
Hoffner brought his cell phone to Julie Bruggeman in the university’s Information Technology Department on Aug. 10 because it wasn’t working properly. After contacting the wireless network provider and being told to download a file to the phone, Bruggeman brought the device to Jerry Jeffries, the department’s supervisor, according to the complaint.
Jeffries told Det. Jerry Billiar that he copied all the information from Hoffner’s phone on to a computer, then attempted to update the phone. When the update didn’t work, he gave Hoffner a new phone on Aug. 14. He also told Hoffner he would use the computer backup to transfer pictures and videos from the old phone to the new one later that day.
While going through that data, Jeffries found the three videos.
A one-minute video created on June 26 showed the three children, one boy and two girls, with their backs to the camera and covered by towels, the complaint said. They drop the towels and turn toward the camera, exposing themselves. The boy allegedly fondles himself and the girls allegedly bend over and expose their anuses to the camera.
A much shorter video showed the girls dancing naked before the boy enters wearing only a football helmet, according to the complaint. The third video, about two minutes long, allegedly shows one of girls being woken at night by a male and told to go to the bathroom. After the girl gets up, the camera focuses in on the back side of her underwear, the complaint said.
After seeing the videos, Jeffries contacted his supervisor, Bryan Schneider, and later met with Assistant Human Resources Director DeeAnn Snaza and Chief Information Officer Ed Clark.
Hoffner was coaching the football team when he was escorted off the field Friday afternoon. University officials later announced that Hoffner had been placed on paid administrative leave and his coaching duties had been turned over to Aaron Keen, the team’s offensive coordinator.
Hoffner was arrested at his home Tuesday and remained in jail until he was charged and appeared in court Wednesday afternoon. His wife appeared in court with him and was preparing to post a bond for his release after the hearing.
During the hearing, Fleming noted that Hoffner has never faced criminal charges in the past.
“This is a family that has strong roots in the community,” Fleming said.