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Jury breaks without verdict in prosecutor's case

  • Associated Press
  • July 24, 2014 - 8:45 PM

DULUTH, Minn. — The prosecution argued Thursday that a northern Minnesota county attorney on trial for alleged sexual misconduct involving a 17-year-old girl abused his position of authority over the teen, a claim rejected by the man's defense attorney.

Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell is charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The case went to the jury late Thursday afternoon, WDIO-TV (http://bit.ly/UrbZb9) reported. Jurors deliberated about three hours before breaking Thursday night.

In closing arguments in St. Louis County Court, prosecuting attorney Tom Heffelfinger said Scannell, now 48, abused a position of authority when he kissed and allegedly touched the girl during drives they took in 2012. Heffelfinger said fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct happens when an offender is in a position of authority over the victim at the time of the act.

Scannell testified his mentorship roles had ended by the time of the alleged acts and that he had no sexual intent in their meetings.

Heffelfinger used Scannell's own testimony against him in his closing argument. Scannell said in his testimony, "I thoroughly and utterly and evilly betrayed (the girl's mother's) trust." Heffelfinger said that statement was Scannell acknowledging his position of authority over the teen.

Defense attorney Joe Tamburino told jurors that Scannell was never directly given — or charged with —any parental responsibilities over the girl, making the acts distasteful and immoral but not illegal.

Scannell testified he didn't realize his actions hurt the girl, who is now 19, until he saw her on the stand Wednesday.

The girl's family sought a restraining order against Scannell in 2012. The parents say Scannell was a longtime family friend.

Scannell became a public figure after he was shot multiple times at the Grand Marais courthouse in December 2011 by a man he'd successfully prosecuted.

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