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Decision today on charges, exoneration in Scannell case | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Published October 31, 2013, 12:00 AM

Decision today on charges in Scannell case

It has been more than 10 months since Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell first was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

By: Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune

It has been more than 10 months since Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell first was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Scannell’s future could be decided today, when a special prosecutor announces whether or not he will seek criminal charges against the county’s top prosecutor.

Former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger, now a private attorney in Minneapolis who was appointed March 25 to review the case for possible criminal charges, will announce his findings at a news conference at 10 a.m. on the steps of the courthouse in Grand Marais. It’s the same building where, in a different incident nearly two years ago, Scannell was shot by a man he successfully prosecuted on an underage sex charge.

Scannell’s relationship with the girl came to light when her family filed a restraining order against him in December 2012.

The order, authorized by 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Shaun Floerke, remains in effect until Dec. 4, 2014.

According to the restraining order petition, signed by both of the girl’s parents, Scannell is known to the victim and her family as a friend, coach, mentor and volunteer. He gave the girl guitar lessons and coached her in a summer tennis program.

The petition states that the girl’s mother said Scannell came to her place of employment and told her he loved her daughter and that his relationship with her became physical with “kissing and touching, but nothing illegal.” At the time of the alleged inappropriate relationship, the girl was over the age of consent in Minnesota, which is 16.

An elected official whose term is set to expire next year, Scannell, 47, has yet to comment publicly on the investigation, but his attorney has defended him.

“Mr. Scannell deeply regrets the pain and heartache that this situation has caused the family in question,” Minneapolis attorney Joe Tamburino told the News Tribune when the allegations first surfaced. “However, Mr. Scannell has not committed a crime or any act of harassment. This incident did not involve his position as the Cook County Attorney, nor was he in any position of authority during any of the alleged events.”

Amid the controversy, Scannell refused to step down from his position, leading to protests and calls for a petition to remove him from office. Every Friday, a small group gathers in front of the courthouse to protest Scannell’s decision to stay on the job, while several Facebook groups and Web sites actively call for his ouster.

“It’s a lot of citizens standing up and saying we don’t want this kind of behavior in office and in this town,” said Jason Zimmer, one of several Cook County residents who have organized efforts calling for Scannell’s departure. “It’s just a mindboggling situation.”

Zimmer said he has more than enough signatures lined up for a petition should Scannell be charged and still refuse to resign.

“We need 640 signatures and we have well over that,” Zimmer said. “A lot of concerned citizens are looking for answers.”

The Cook County Courthouse was the scene of a high-profile incident nearly two years ago, when Scannell was shot by a man convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a teenage girl.

On Dec. 15, 2011, Daniel Schlienz went to Scannell’s office in the Cook County Courthouse with a loaded handgun, minutes after he was convicted. Scannell was shot once in the chest below his heart and twice in the right thigh but made a full recovery.

via Decision today on charges, exoneration in Scannell case | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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