By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Videos that resulted in child pornography charges against Minnesota State University’s head football coach are not lewd nor obscene, according to a certified sex therapist known internationally for his sex offender research and treatment methods.
William L. Seabloom watched the three short videos with coach Todd Hoffner’s attorney, Jim Fleming, on Oct. 18, according to an affidavit filed Monday in Blue Earth County District Court. Fleming told Seabloom to assume the person operating the video camera was the father of the children being recorded.
The videos were found on Hoffner’s cellphone by university employees after he turned it in for repairs in August. Two of the videos allegedly show Hoffner’s three children, between the ages of 4 and 9, dancing naked. Another shows one of his daughters being taken to the bathroom.
This is Seabloom’s description of the videos:
“In the first 92-second video, I saw three minor children that were naked and engaged in play,” the affidavit said. “The children were happy and laughing. They did not appear to be in any distress or discomfort.
“The second video was 10 seconds in length. It shows the two minor female children for the first five seconds; at the five second point a minor male appears behind the girls wearing a football helmet.
“The third video is 118 seconds long. It shows an adolescent female sleeping who was awakened and led to the bathroom. The adolescent female is wearing bed clothing and as she enters the bathroom the video ends.”
Seabloom, who also is a clinical social worker familiar with child protection investigations, said he didn’t see anything in the videos that he would describe as lewd, obscene or indecent. He said, among other things, he watched to see if the children’s genitals were the focal point in the videos, if the images were sexually suggestive, if the children were in unnatural poses and if the images were designed to elicit a sexual response.
“The children in the videos I observed are engaged in normal play where they are singing and laughing,” Seabloom said. “Nothing can be interpreted that I can see or hear from the children’s point of view that they are intending to elicit a sexual response in any way.”
There are portions of the 92-second video where Hoffner’s son grabs his penis, Seabloom said. The children also spread their buttocks and expose their anuses for the camera. Seabloom said he didn’t see any evidence that the children were doing anything sexually stimulating.
Fleming also filed an affidavit Monday from Dr. Lon Knudson, a Mankato Clinic pediatrician who has been providing care for the Hoffner children since 2008. His affidavit said he hasn’t had any concerns about the physical and emotional health of the children. Knudson also said he was made aware of one daughter’s bedwetting problem three years ago. The problem was cited by Hoffner’s wife, Melodee, as a reason for having the bathroom video.
“I have not found or suspected physical or psychological damage to these children in any respect,” Knudson’s affidavit said.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Hanson made the decision to file felony charges of using minors in a sexual performance and possession of child pornography after he viewed the videos, according to court documents.
Since the charges were filed, authorities have reported they didn’t find any additional evidence on computers and storage devices confiscated from the Hoffners’ Eagle Lake home when it was searched in August. Blue Earth County Human Services social workers also have issued a letter to Hoffner, 46, saying an investigation by that department found no evidence of maltreatment.
Hanson has declined to comment about the case outside the courtroom. He will likely argue at least some of his reasoning for the charges Wednesday during an omnibus hearing before District Court Judge Krista Jass. Fleming has filed a motion to have the charges dismissed that is scheduled to be addressed during the hearing.
In another motion filed last week, Fleming asked Jass to limit the prosecution’s use of videos and photographs that were found on the Hoffners’ computers to evidence that’s alleged to be child pornography. The motion said Hanson has suggested there is more evidence than the three videos, but no other evidence has been disclosed after “numerous requests.”
In another filing that suggests Fleming wants the case to go to trial quickly if the charges aren’t dismissed, he disclosed witnesses and evidence he will present. Seabloom and Knudson are the only people Fleming is listing as witnesses at this point, but his filing said that could change.