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Investigation of Cook County attorney's relationship with girl continues

By Mark Stodghill / Duluth News Tribune

The investigation into Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell’s relationship with a teenage girl is ongoing after four months.

Former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger, a 35-year lawyer working in private practice in Minneapolis, was appointed special prosecutor to review the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation of Scannell on March 25.

Heffelfinger told the News Tribune on Monday that there is nothing at this time that he can say publicly, other than the investigation continues.

A recorded message asking to speak to Scannell that was left at the Cook County Attorney’s Office on Monday afternoon wasn’t returned.

Because Scannell prosecutes people who commit sex crimes with minors, and because he is accused of having an inappropriate romantic relationship with a 17-year-old girl, Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk in December asked the BCA to investigate Scannell.

Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Shaun Floerke in March appointed Heffelfinger special prosecutor to determine if formal charges are warranted.

Scannell, who was shot and seriously wounded in December 2011 by a sex offender he had just prosecuted, was ordered by the court last December to stay away from the minor girl.

According to the petition seeking the restraining order, 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 girl’s mother said Scannell came to her place of employment on Sept. 25 and told her he loved her daughter and that his relationship with her became physical over the summer with “kissing and touching, but nothing illegal.” The age of consent in Minnesota is 16.

The Harassment Restraining Order signed by Floerke stated that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Scannell had harassed the girl by following, pursuing or stalking her and by making harassing phone calls.

The harassment had or was intended to have a “substantial adverse effect on (the girl’s) safety, security or privacy,” the order stated.

Scannell was ordered to have no contact with the girl or any member of her family, and the restraining order remains in effect until Dec. 4, 2014.

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