A Minnesota prosecutor who was shot two years ago while prosecuting a suspected child molester was charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct on Thursday for allegedly having a physical relationship with a teenage girl.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Special Prosecutor Thomas Heffelfinger, a former U.S. Attorney brought in for the case, announced the charges against 47-year-old Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell nine days after a grand jury determined there was enough evidence to indict him.
“This is one of those counties where everybody knows everybody else — including the county attorney,” Heffelfinger was quoted as saying. “So this has been a very difficult process for them.”
Scannell, whose term is scheduled to expire in 2014, has been on medical leave since late October 2013. He appeared in court on Thursday and was released without bail. Minnesota Public Radio reported that he is due back in court on Nov. 12.
WCCO-TV reported that dozens of demonstrators converged on the courthouse in Grand Marais, Minnesota, for Heffelfinger’s announcement, 10 months after they began calling for Scannell to be charged.
The protests began after the girl’s parents obtained a two-year restraining order against Scannell in December 2012. Scannell, who was coaching the teen in tennis, reportedly told them that he was in love with the girl, who was 17 years old at the time. Scannell also said the relationship involved “kissing and touching, but nothing illegal.”
Heffelfinger told WCCO that the charges stem from incidents during “two separate days” in August 2012. He also specified to the Star-Tribune that, even though the state age of consent is 16, Scannell is being charged because he was in a position of authority at the time of the alleged encounters and because their age difference is greater than four years.
Scannell’s attorney, Richard W. Swanson, released a statement saying that though Scannell “knows that he acted inappropriately,” he did not commit a crime. Swanson said in the statement that his client was still suffering from “extreme stress” after being shot in the courthouse while pursuing a case against 42-year-old Daniel Schlienz, who was accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl.
“We are very sorry and disappointed that the special prosecutor appointed in this case has chosen now — after all this time, more than one year after the initial allegations arose — to bring a criminal indictment against Tim, who still works every day to deal with the PTSD, anxiety, and depression caused by the shooting,” Swanson’s statement read.
Watch WCCO’s report, aired on Thursday, below.