The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 14, 2012

Former head of Wetterling center believes Hoffner is innocent



It wasn’t uncommon for the children to be naked in the house, so he didn’t think twice about continuing to record after the towels were dropped and the children, a boy and two girls between the ages of 5 and 9, started dancing in the nude, Hoffner said. He also said he forgot about the videos, which were recorded on a cellphone issued to him by MSU, until he turned his phone in for repairs and they were found by another employee.

Hoffner and his wife, Melodee, have described the videos as innocent family antics. Hanson said he filed felony charges because he believes they show the children in lewd performances including masturbation.

Beyond the videos, search warrant requests and reports from two deputies who investigated, Hanson hasn’t offered much more publicly to support his case against Hoffner. In a brief filed Wednesday arguing against Fleming’s motion to dismiss the case, he said a jury should decide whether the videos are child pornography.

Hanson, a West High School graduate, is not new to prosecuting cases involving criminal sexual conduct, including child pornography. He has handled similar cases since he started working as a prosecutor for Blue Earth County in 2005. He also served as an assistant chief deputy prosecutor for sex crimes at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indiana for three years.

In his brief, Hanson pointed out that different people can come to different conclusions when they read what Hoffner is accused of doing. He cites something Alison Feigh, a current program director for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, told a reporter from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

“When you read the words, is there really a question about this being OK?” Feigh told the reporter.

“Apparently, experts disagree,” Hanson said.

There are lessons to be learned from what Hoffner has admitted to doing, Sabin said. Everyone should know better than to create private family videos on devices that are easily accessible to others, especially when those devices are owned be a government agency or private business.

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