County Attorney Scannell could face criminal charges for relationship with 17-year-old girl

Despite a BCA investigation, Scannell continues to serve as county attorney.
Despite a BCA investigation, Scannell continues to serve as county attorney.

Four months after he was hit was a court order to stop communicating with a 17-year-old girl with whom he was romantically involved, Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell is under investigation for possible criminal charges.

SEE ALSO: Matthew Ellsworth gets probation for having sex with student

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension recently appointed former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger to review their case against Scannell and make a call as to whether charges should be filed.

Scannell said his relationship with the girl involved "kissing and touching, but nothing illegal." The age of consent in Minnesota is 16, but it's illegal for adults to have sexual relationships with minors if they're in a "position of authority." Scannell gave the girl guitar lessons and served as her summer tennis coach. He and his wife reportedly socialized with the girl's parents.

Scannell's case is rife with ironies. In December 2011, Scannell was shot multiple times and nearly killed in the Cook County Courthouse by a 42-year-old man whom he had just worked to convict of having sex with a 15-year-old girl while the man was in his 30s. As he recovered, Scannell deflected attention away from the shooting by saying people should instead focus on Grand Marais's strange culture of man-on-young-girl relationships.

"That's what we should all be talking about right now: that we were able to put a stop to [the shooter's] preying on young girls in our community," Scannell told the Duluth News Tribune.

Scannell -- a 46-year-old married father of two -- showed up at the girl's mother's workplace last September and told her he was in love with her daughter and didn't think the 30-year difference in their ages was a big deal. The girl's parents subsequently made Scannell promise to leave their daughter alone, but in the restraining order filing, the mother claims Scannell continued to communicate with the girl even while she was studying abroad in Barcelona via texts, letters, and packages.

Scannell has thus far resisted intense pressure to resign as Cook County attorney. According to a WCCO report from February, every Friday early this year, protesters gathered outside the Cook County courthouse to demand Scannell's resignation.

After news of the restraining order went public, Scannell sought treatment and took a five-week leave. WCCO reported that his wife blamed her husband's relationship with the girl on "emotional issues" and PTSD stemming from the near-fatal shooting.

Scannell isn't the only county attorney in northern Minnesota to recently find himself on the wrong side of the law. Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler is still serving as his county's top prosecutor despite pleading guilty to drunk driving last fall. Pertler reportedly blew a surgical anesthesia-level 0.336 immediately after being pulled over, and a nearly empty bottle of vodka was found in his car.

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