Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dad Says He Made Innocent Home Movies; Prosecutors Say He’s a Child Pornographer

Todd Hoffner, police photo.

A Eagle Lake, Minn., couple are fighting back against charges that University of Minnesota at Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner made child porn using his own kids. Hoffner and his wife Melodee insist the videos in question are innocent family home movies. ”My family does what every family does. We take videos and pictures of our kids in all their craziness,” said Melodee, a licensed school counselor, adding, “I am fully aware of the signs and indicators of children who have been abused. And I assure you our children have not been exploited or abused.”

The felony child porn charges against Hoffner allege that in the videos, the children, ages 9, 8 and 5, are seen jumping and dancing naked. According to  a criminal complaint, Hoffner’s son, 5, is seen touching his genitals while the two girls bend over and spread their buttocks. In another video, the complaint says, the boy is seen wearing only a football helmet. A third video allegedly shows one of the girls sleeping at night, as a male voice tells her it’s time “to go potty.” As the girl gets up to go to the bathroom, the camera zooms in on the back of her underwear. According to Hoffner, there is a reasonable explanation for the last video: ”One of my daughters has difficulty during the night and we decided to wake her up during the night to go the bathroom. When we told her about this, she wanted to see it.”

Police became aware of the videos after August 14, when Hoffner brought his phone to be fixed by a university IT professional, who saw the clips and alerted a supervisor.

Hoffner is currently on paid administrative leave from the university and is free on $40,000 bail. According to former defense attorney and current Hamline University law professor Joe Daly, “This is a very grey area of the law. I’m personally glad I’m not the prosecutor in this case. And I’m also personally glad I’m not the defense attorney in this case. I’d rather be a professor studying this case.” He added that he believes charges against Hoffner wouldn’t have been filed if the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State hadn’t occured. “I think we’re all in heightened state of alert,” he said.

Can the 'heightened state of alert' described by Joe Daly lead to innocent men being hit with very serious child porn charges? Image:

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