Judge: Hoffner investigative file to remain sealed
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge has ruled that the investigative file in the case of a former college football coach who was cleared of child pornography charges will remain private, according to court documents filed Friday.
Attorneys for Todd Hoffner, former head coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato, asked the court for an injunction to prohibit the file from being released after two TV stations requested access to it. Blue Earth County Judge Krista Jass granted Hoffner’s request in a ruling filed Friday, saying releasing the information would adversely affect his family’s right to privacy.
“This is such an occasion where the press must exercise restraint and ‘direct some effort to protect the rights of an accused’ to free speech and privacy,” Jass wrote.
Hoffner was charged with possession of child pornography in August after school officials found videos of his naked children on his work-issued cellphone, which he had turned in to be repaired. Jass dismissed the criminal charges in November after finding that the short videos of his children acting silly after a bath were not child porn and showed nothing illegal.
Jass wrote that the interests of justice warrant her to consider what impact public dissemination of the file would have on Hoffner’s fundamental rights to free speech and privacy. She noted a large amount of data about Hoffner and his family was collected by investigators.
“In this case, the Court determined that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Mr. Hoffner harmed his children. ... Where an investigation reveals no harm to any member of the family unit, what goes on within the privacy of the family home is not the public’s constitutional business,” she wrote.
The Mankato Free Press intervened in the case to seek access.
Mark Anfinson, the attorney who represented The Free Press, said he was disappointed with the decision. He said it’s important to understand how law enforcement went so far astray.
“Without some access to the investigative records, I think answering that question becomes extremely difficult,” he said. “It’s a pretty big deal in terms of the public’s interest when law enforcement agencies misfire like they apparently did here.”
Jass wrote that the information the newspaper wanted could be found in evidence presented in court. When it comes to the actions and decisions of public officials, she said: “The record speaks for itself.”
After Hoffner’s criminal case was dismissed, he was removed from his position as football coach and reassigned to an administrative role. He is currently assistant athletic director for facilities development, a university spokesman said.
A message left with Hoffner’s attorney was not returned Friday.
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