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Cook County (Minn.) attorney charged with criminal sexual conduct

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. — Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell was charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct today over an alleged inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

While the victim in the case was older than 16 — the age of consent in Minnesota — Scannell was more than four years older than her, and in a position of authority, which makes the incident a criminal offense. A grand jury returned the indictment on Oct. 22.

Scannell, 47, made an appearance today in Cook County and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 12. He was released on his own recognizance. Scannell asked that all judges in the Sixth Judicial District recuse themselves because they have worked with him.

“This is a very difficult case for this community. This is a small, tight-knit community,” former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger, now a private attorney in Minneapolis who was appointed in March to review the case for potential criminal charges, said when charges were announced. “(It’s) a very difficult case for the victim and her family, and it’s a very difficult case for Scannell.”

The findings are the result of a nearly seven-month investigation conducted by Heffelfinger.

The relationship came to light when the girl’s family filed a restraining order against Scannell in December. The order, authorized by Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Shaun Floerke, remains in effect until Dec. 4, 2014.

According to the petition that sought the restraining order, signed by 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.

To avoid any conflict of interest with the attorney’s office, Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate Scannell last December.

After a BCA investigation, Heffelfinger was appointed as a special prosecutor to review the case for possible criminal charges March 25.

Scannell was shot and seriously wounded in December 2011 by a convicted sex offender he had just prosecuted. On Dec. 15, 2012, Daniel Schlienz went to Scannell’s office in the Cook County Courthouse with a loaded handgun, minutes after he was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a teenage girl. The county attorney was shot once in the chest below his heart and twice in the right thigh.

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