Embattled Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell apologized Tuesday for what he called "a breach of trust" but vowed to stay in his job despite a court order barring him from having contact with a 17-year-old girl whose parents complained he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with their daughter.
In a statement issued by his attorney and addressed to county residents, Scannell said the restraining order is "absolutely and completely a personal matter" that did not involve his job as county attorney.
"However, I recognize that I have breached your trust, and I hope to repair that trust over time," the statement said.
Scannell, 46, was thrust into the public eye nearly a year ago when a man he had just prosecuted on a felony charge of criminal sexual conduct with a minor shot and seriously wounded him in the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais. A second man who was shot also survived. The shooter, Daniel Schlienz, died of a blood disorder a month later in jail.
Last week, a Cook County judge signed off on the two-year protective order. It was sought by the girl's parents, who said Scannell, a married father of two and a family friend, confessed to the girl'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. The parents noted that although their daughter is past the age of consent of 16 in Minnesota, they don't know when the relationship began. A state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokeswoman said that the Cook County Sheriff's Office requested last week that the BCA investigate a case, but she wouldn't say whether it was linked to Scannell.
Neither Scannell nor his attorney, Joe Tamburino, would elaborate on the four-paragraph statement, which came on the heels of reaction to the restraining order. A Facebook page titled "Let's Get Tim Scannell Out of Office" was launched but appears to have been taken down. In the meantime, Tamburino declined to address claims that Scannell's behavior may have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological effects from the shooting. The petition references Scannell receiving psychological treatment in Arizona, and said he remains on health leave from his position.
In the statement, Scannell cited "an inappropriate and unfortunate amount of inaccurate media attention, and that attention will inevitably affect how you perceive me personally and as an elected official."
Neither Scannell nor Tamburino would elaborate on what inaccuracies had appeared in media reports.
Scannell, who was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, pledged to fulfill his duties in the position, noting "the extreme personal sacrifices that I have made in being the county attorney, especially since the attempt on my life last year. Still, I know all too well that I have disappointed you, and I want to apologize for that as sincerely as I possibly can."
Scannell did not return telephone calls or e-mails seeking comment.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921