Wizards

Judge dismisses porn case against Minn. coach

201211301746640105688-p2.jpeg

Judge dismisses porn case against Minn. coach

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) A Minnesota football coach sidelined by accusations of child pornography involving his own children reacted with relief Friday after a judge dismissed the case, saying he was ``thankful to be waking up from this nightmare.''

Todd Hoffner, the head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato, was effectively cleared when a judge agreed with his assertion that innocent family videos had been misinterpreted. He had been escorted off a football practice field and arrested in August after a university employee came across cellphone videos of his children dancing and playing naked.

``My wife and I have anticipated this day for a very long time,'' Hoffner said in a news conference at his attorneys' offices. ``It has finally taken a person with courage and authority to realize what these videos were.''

Hoffner said he wanted to return to work as soon as possible. The university said he will remain on administrative leave until its own investigation is complete. Hoffner has been on leave since the videos were discovered on his university-issued cellphone in August and turned over to police.

Hoffner testified earlier that his three young children asked him to videotape a skit they had concocted after taking a bubble bath. His wife, Melodee, has defended him, as have supporters who held candlelight vigils on his behalf.

A search of his home computer found no evidence of child porn, and social workers found no evidence that the couple's children had been abused.

In her ruling released Friday, Blue Earth County District Judge Krista Jass said she didn't find any evidence that the videos amounted to pornography.

``The videos under consideration here contain nude images of Defendant's minor children dancing and acting playful after a bath. That is all they contain,'' Jass wrote in her 24-page ruling dismissing the charges.

Hoffner's attorney, Jim Fleming, singled out assistant county prosecutor Mike Hanson for bringing charges in the first place, saying ``Hanson essentially argued that this was child pornography because he knows it when he sees it.''

Hanson said in a statement that his office didn't agree with the dismissal but accepted it.

``Our office was trying to enforce a statute enacted to protect children,'' he said. ``No matter what the prosecutor does in a controversial case with a high-profile suspect, they will be criticized. We do not go looking for cases like this, they are brought to us.''

University spokesman Dan Benson said he had no timetable for when the school's investigation would be completed.

Hoffner, 46, of Eagle Lake, had been charged with one count of using minors in a sexual performance or pornographic work and one count of possessing child pornography. Both are felonies.

He has been sidelined for what has turned into an outstanding season for the Mavericks. They are 12-0 and host Missouri Western on Saturday in the national Division II quarterfinals.

The circumstances of the case, close on the heels of the Penn State scandal involving sexually abused children and authority figures who didn't intervene, invited questions about whether the university had overreacted to the videos.

Fleming, the coach's attorney, said Friday that it was for ``others to decide'' whether the Penn State case played a part in how Hoffner's case was handled.

``In light of all that's happened, it would be hard for me to say it wasn't at least a factor,'' Fleming said.

At an earlier hearing on his motion for dismissal, Hoffner testified that he had told his children to go take a bubble bath last June so he could get some work done. Hoffner said the children later came down in towels and asked him to videotape them. He said he never directed the kids, and never watched the video afterward or showed it to anyone.

The videos came to light after Hoffner took his problematic cellphone to work to be checked out.

The coach was escorted off the football practice field on Aug. 17 by university officials after the school turned the videos over to police, and he was arrested four days later.

Hanson, the assistant prosecutor, had argued earlier that the decision on whether or not the videos were pornography should be left to a jury, and disputed the claim that the images were innocent family fun.

Hoffner was entering his fifth year as head football coach at the school, where he had a 34-13 record. He led the Mavericks to the playoffs in 2008 and 2009, and a share of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title in 2011. He was named NSIC coach of the year in 2009.

Word of the case's dismissal was just starting to spread Friday night on campus at the university, which with its roughly 15,000 students is among the state's largest. Sam Moyer, a senior from the Rochester area, said the charges were not a frequent topic of discussion among students.

``I know quite a few people who thought this was just him making family memories - not a sexual act,'' Moyer said. ``It's such a big conclusion to jump to, that he was some sexual predator. That ruins someone's life.''

---

Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report from Minneapolis.

Quick Links

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

img_4776.jpg
NBA

Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!