The parents of a 17-year-old girl have filed a restraining order against Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell, alleging he is involved in a relationship with their daughter, days shy of a year since Scannell was shot by a man he prosecuted for having sex with a teenager.
A Cook County judge signed the two-year restraining order, sought by the Grand Marais couple, who allege that the 46-year-old married father of two confessed to the teenager's mother in September that he was in love with the girl, and had kissed and touched her. According to the petition, he promised to leave her alone but reneged on his promises to stop contacting her.
"Obviously he cannot be trusted and we have no idea what he is capable of at this point," the girl's mother wrote in the petition. "We fear for our daughter's safety, her physical and emotional well-being, and her future."
The parents noted that although their daughter is past the age of consent -- 16 in Minnesota -- they don't know when the relationship began.
No one in the Cook County Attorney's or Sheriff's Office would discuss the case. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokeswoman Jill Oliveira confirmed that the Cook County Sheriff's Office requested Wednesday that the BCA conduct an investigation, though she would not say whether it was linked to Scannell.
In a statement, Scannell's attorney, Joe Tamburino, said his client "deeply regrets the pain and heartache this situation has caused the family in question."
He maintained that Scannell, who is on medical leave from his job, "has not committed a crime or any act of harassment" and that it did not involve his position as Cook County attorney, or any other position of authority during the alleged events.
"Please understand that at no time did any sexual conduct occur between Mr. Scannell and the identified individual," he said, adding that Scannell intends to continue serving as county attorney and "trusts that this matter will resolve quickly."
No one answered the phone at Scannell's Grand Marais home and he didn't return a message left at his office. According to the restraining order petition, he began receiving five-week psychological treatment in Arizona on Oct. 29.
Scannell was shot in the thigh and abdomen Dec. 14, 2011, moments after a jury found Daniel S. Schlienz, 42, guilty of a felony charge for criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Schlienz also shot the girl's father. Schlienz died later that month in jail of a blood disorder.
After his recovery, Scannell was outspoken about the trend of older men preying on young girls in Grand Marais.
"That's what we should all be talking about right now: that we were able to put a stop to his preying on young girls in our community," he told the Duluth News Tribune earlier this year.
According to the petition, Scannell's family had been friends with the girl's family for several years, and he frequently worked with her, giving her guitar lessons and coaching her in sports. The teenager also went to prom with Scannell's teenage son.
On Sept. 25, the petition says, Scannell went to the school where the teenager's mother worked, and confessed that he was in love with the girl, and that their relationship became physical, with "kissing and touching, but nothing illegal." The petition said he read love poetry he had written her and described a necklace he gave her before she left for Spain for the semester. He said they also discussed having children together someday but decided that he would be too old, the petition said.
Later that evening, Scannell spoke with the girl's father, and promised he would stop communicating with the girl, and would look into mental health treatment. He texted them later saying, "If I can't look out for her, then it feels hard. I lost what I never wanted to lose."
The parents declined to file a restraining order at the time because they wanted to protect their daughter's privacy, the petition said.
Less than three weeks later, Scannell allegedly confronted the girl's mother again and begged her to allow him to continue staying in contact with her because "they were soul mates."
When the girl's mother asked Scannell how the relationship was different than the criminal sexual conduct cases he prosecuted as county attorney, "He laughed and said that he wasn't 'picking [her] up in the alley behind Holiday,'" according to the petition.
In October, the parents visited their daughter in Spain. When her host mother told them Scannell sent packages and mail to the girl while he was in treatment, and had been communicating with her via Skype, they brought her home early and filed the petition.
"Tim ... is in a position of power and authority as county attorney," the girl's mother wrote. "His influence on her is significant."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921