Niagara Gazette

April 11, 2014

Big win for college coach wrongly accused of child porn


CNHI News Service

MANKATO, Minn. — An emotional saga that began with a child pornography accusation 18 months ago ended in final victory Thursday for the ex-football coach of Minnesota State University-Mankato who was fired even though the charges against him were found groundless and dismissed.

A state arbitrator ruled the university wrongfully terminated football coach Todd Hoffner last May for videos found on his school-issued cellphone of his nude and partially clothed young children acting playful after bathing at home.

The arbitrator ordered Hoffner’s reinstatement to his four-year contract along with back pay for lost earnings from his six-figure salary.

Hoffner was suspended in August 2012 when a school technician noticed the videos on his phone while repairing it. He was arrested four days later on child pornography charges, but three months later a judge threw out the charges, ruling the videos did not meet the legal definition of child pornography.

“The videos under consideration here contain nude images of defendant's minor children dancing and acting playful after a bath,” said Judge Krista Jass. “That is all they contain."

But Hoffner never regained his coaching job. Upon dismissal of the charges he was assigned to administrative duties in the athletic department, and then fired six months later. He was hired by Minot, N.D., State University as head football coach in January.

Hoffner insisted all along there was nothing inappropriate in the videos. He said his children – then ages 9, 8 and 5 – were simply acting silly. He said he was an innocent victim of authorities acting overzealously in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State University.

Christopher Madel, Hoffner’s arbitration attorney, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the overseers of the Mankato university should now “clean house” and remove those officials who pursued the pornography charges and then fired Hoffner.

Arbitrator Gerald Wallin, who gathered evidence and heard several witnesses from July to November of last year, agreed the videos were not child porn. He said the decision to fire Hoffner was made by university president Richard Davenport without just cause.

Jan Fleming, Hoffner’s attorney for the criminal case, said the family has not decided yet whether to return to Minnesota or stay at Minot State. If he stays put, the Minnesota university will have to pay any difference in his salary under the arbitrator’s ruling.

“This period from losing his job up until the point of this arbitration has been particularly grueling,” said Fleming. “There was a time that Todd was working as a farmhand.”

Details for this story were reported by the Mankato Free Press.