Court orders Cook County Attorney to stay away from teen girl
Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell, who was shot and seriously wounded a year ago by the sex offender he had just prosecuted, has been ordered by the court to stay away from a 17-year-old girl he's accused of starting a romantic relationship with.
According to the petition seeking the restraining order, signed by both of the girl's parents, Scannell, 46, 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 two sets of parents and their children socialized together.
The girl's mother said that 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 petition states that the mother said that while Scannell was at her workplace he texted the girl and read the mother some of the love poetry he sent the girl. He also described a necklace he gave the girl. He said they talked about having children together some day, but they decided he would be too old. He said that they planned for her to go to college in the Twin Cities area so that he could visit her, and later they would move to Australia together.
The parents asked their daughter if she was in love with Scannell. She replied, "I don't think so." When they asked her about moving to Australia, she said, "I guess I thought that was a joke." She said they had done nothing illegal over the summer, leading the parents to believe that Scannell had coached her to reply that way, according to the petition.
A member of Scannell's office said that he wasn't at work Thursday and couldn't be reached for comment. A message sent to Scannell's Facebook page seeking comment wasn't returned.
Joe Tamburino, Scannell's Minneapolis attorney, was reached by phone at his home Thursday night and defended his client.
"Mr. Scannell deeply regrets the pain and heartache that this situation has caused the family in question," Tamburino said. "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. Please understand that at no time did any sexual conduct occur between Mr. Scannell and the identified individual. Mr. Scannell intends to continue his duties at the Cook County Attorney's Office and trusts that this will resolve quickly."
The Harassment Restraining Order signed by 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Shaun Floerke stated that there are 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 is 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.
According to the petition, the girl's parents said Scannell had assured them that he would quit communicating with their daughter after they learned of the relationship between the two.
The girl then went to Barcelona, Spain, to attend school. Her parents said they had been unable to monitor her phone calls there, but her host mother told them that the girl had received ongoing communication from Scannell from August to the present.
In their petition, the parents state that they don't trust Scannell and fear for their daughter's safety, physical and emotional well-being and her future.
The mother said that Scannell approached her at her workplace on Oct. 15. She said he told her that he and her daughter were soul mates and that their 30-year age difference was no big deal. The woman asked Scannell how he would feel if she were to begin a romantic relationship with his son. He laughed and said that was ridiculous. She asked how his relationship with her daughter was any different than the criminal sexual conduct cases he had prosecuted. He laughed and said that he wasn't "picking (the girl) up in the alley behind Holiday."
The woman said she encouraged Scannell to seek treatment, according to the petition. She said he responded: "She's 17, she can make her own decisions, it's not like she's 11 or 14." He said the relationship was not about sex, since he could get that anywhere.
On Dec. 15 of last year, 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. Schlienz shot and wounded Gregory Thompson of Grand Marais, a witness subpoenaed to testify in the trial, and then went for Scannell. The county attorney was shot once in the chest below his heart and twice in the right thigh.
In a supporting affidavit accompanying the parents' petition for a restraining order, they said that Scannell had gone to Arizona for treatment for psychological trauma for five weeks beginning about Oct. 29. They didn't believe he would have access to their daughter during that time, but the mother visited their daughter in Barcelona over Thanksgiving. She learned from the host mother that her daughter had received packages, mail and texts from Scannell. Arrangements were made to shorten the girl's study abroad and return home early so that the parents could monitor her more closely and get her into counseling.