A northern Minnesota jury on Friday convicted Tim Scannell, the Cook County prosecutor, of two sex crimes related to his relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
Scannell, 48, was convicted of two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct, said Thomas Heffelfinger, a former U.S. attorney who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, which was tried in Duluth.
The county attorney was convicted of kissing and touching the girl in a sexual way in two different instances in 2012, when she was 17. He was a family friend and knew the girl for several years.
Heffelfinger said such a prosecution, of a county’s highest law enforcement officer, is “very rare.”
Scannell had placed himself on a self-declared medical leave in October and continues to be paid, Heffelfinger said. Scannell is to be sentenced Sept. 26 in St. Louis County District Court.
Heffelfinger said the entire process has been difficult on the victim.
“She is still confused and hurt by what happened to her,” he said Friday night.
“She’s confused and hurt by his having denied all of the allegations that she was making. But she has found that the process of testifying and telling him to his face that he hurt her and violated his trust has been very helpful to her.”
Heffelfinger said he’s considering the sentencing position he’ll recommend. State sentencing guidelines call for probation.
The convictions do not become formal until sentencing by Chief Judge Shaun Floerke in September, Heffelfinger said.
“He is not running for re-election, so he will remain the official county attorney on the 1st of January 2015,” Heffelfinger said of Scannell.
To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the Cook County sheriff had asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in late 2012 to investigate the case.
That probe came after the girl’s parents had obtained a restraining order against Scannell in December 2012, saying they’d been concerned since that fall for her well-being and safety.
A special grand jury was seated for the case.
Scannell, of Grand Marais, could not be reached for comment Friday evening. He’s blamed his conduct on post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from when he was shot and wounded at the courthouse in 2011.