Around Cook County
Thomas B. Heffelfinger, the special prosecutor assigned to review the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation of County Attorney Tim Scannell, appeared at a press conference on the Cook County courthouse steps on Thursday, October 31. Joining Heffelfinger was Senior Special Agent Sue Burggraf of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a crowd of journalists from regional media outlets and about 50 citizens, anxious to hear whether or not Scannell would face charges related to his alleged romantic relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
Heffelfinger announced that a special grand jury had been convened in St. Louis County with Judge Shaun Floerke presiding on October 21, 2013. On October 22, the grand jury issued an indictment and Scannell was notified of the grand jury’s decision on October 23.
Heffelfinger said that shortly before Thursday’s press conference, Scannell was charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct in the 4th degree for events that allegedly took place August 1 and August 15, 2012. Heffelfinger said the charges were in regard to sexual contact with a person between the ages of 16 and 18 where the other person is more than 48 months older than the victim and in a position of authority.
Scannell, who has not been at work for more than a week and whose office voicemail states that he is on indefinite medical leave, was present at the Cook County courtroom for the indictment. Scannell’s father-in-law Attorney Richard Swanson is representing Scannell at this time, but Heffelfinger said Scannell’s representation after this point is unknown.
After special prosecutor Thomas Heffelfinger’s press conference Thursday announcing charges brought against County Attorney Tim Scannell, the County Commissioners issued a statement, as did Scannell.
“This statement is being issued on behalf of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in response to the recent announcement by Special Prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger regarding the criminal charges filed against County Attorney Tim Scannell.
“Mr. Heffelfinger was appointed by Court Order, Special Prosecutor to assist the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The Cook County Board of Commissioners has not been involved in the investigation by Special Prosecutor Heffelfinger and has no control over it.
“By law, the Cook County Board of Commissioners has very limited authority over elected officials like the County Attorney. The Board does not have the authority to unilaterally reprimand, suspend, or remove an elected official. Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 351 sets forth the procedure that must be followed for a recall election of an elected official to take place when malfeasance or nonfeasance of an elected official is demonstrated.
“The Cook County Board of Commissioners will continue to proactively monitor the situation with the goal, to the fullest extent allowed by the law, of ensuring that the interests of all parties involved and the citizens of Cook County are protected. We encourage the community to remain patient and allow the legal process to work.”
On behalf of Tim Scannell, his attorney Richard Swanson issued the following statement:
“Tim Scannell and his family have been under extreme stress ever since the attempt on his life in December 2011, when he was shot multiple times and nearly died in the Cook County Courthouse.
Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell has been charged with two counts of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. The charges were announced today in Grand Marais by Special Cook County Prosecutor Thomas B. Heffelfinger. (Click on link to WTIP below to hear the story.)
Here is a synopsis of the story:
Special Cook County Prosecutor Thomas B. Heffelfinger held a news conference in Grand Marais this morning on the steps of the county courthouse. He announced that charges have been brought against Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell.
The counts are both criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree.
Fourth degree criminal sexual conduct is typically brought when a young victim was vulnerable, unable to or did not consent to the alleged sexual contact. The charges involve aggravated contact, however generally not physical harm. Minnesota statutes break criminal sexual conduct into five categories, with first degree the most severe and fifth degree the least.
Heffelfinger explained that two counts were brought and that Scannell had already made his first court appearance.
Two counts were charged because of two alleged contacts with the juvenile on separate occasions. Scannell made his first court appearance this morning.
After the morning court appearance, Scannell was released without bail, on his own recognizance with several conditions. His next court appearance is scheduled for the morning of November 12 in Grand Marais, at which time a plea may be entered.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted the investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. Appearing with Heffelfinger this morning was Sue Burgraff, special agent in charge of the Bemidji office responsible for supervision of the Duluth agents who conducted the investigation.
Special Cook County Prosecutor Thomas B. Heffelfinger will be in Grand Marais tomorrow, Oct. 31, to conduct a press conference in connection with a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigation.
A BCA representative will also be in attendance at the 10 a.m. conference to be held on the front steps of the Cook County Courthouse.
Heffelfinger, who twice led the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, was appointed as special prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges are warranted against Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell for his relationship with a minor girl. His responsibility was to review the BCA’s investigation.
Scannell was ordered by the court last December to stay away from the minor girl.
Subsequently, the BCA conducted an investigation of Scannell’s relationship with the girl and was ready to submit the case to a prosecuting attorney to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
Six Minnesota county attorneys were contacted to review the investigation and all declined. Hence, Heffelfinger was appointed to act as special prosecutor and perform all duties of the county attorney in relation to the Scannell case.
The office of Thomas B. Heffelfinger, the special Cook County prosecutor assigned to review the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation of County Attorney Tim Scannell, has announced that there will be a press conference tomorrow, October 31, at 10 a.m. on the front steps of the Cook County courthouse.
Joining Attorney Heffelfinger will be a representative of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell first gained local and national attention in December 15, 2011 after being critically injured in a shooting in his office. Scannell was shot by a defendant he had successfully convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a teenaged girl. The county attorney initiated litigation against Cook County related to that shooting in April 2013.
Scannell again made headlines when a harassment restraining order was issued against him on December 4, 2012 by a Cook County family concerned about the safety and well being of their 17-year-old daughter. The relationship with the young women led to an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation which has turned over its report to Special Prosecutor Thomas B. Heffelfinger. Heffelfinger was appointed “to review the BCA documents for potential prosecution, and, if appropriate, to conduct a prosecution.”
Community business owners gathered at the Summit Chalet at the top of Moose Mountain on Tuesday, October 22, for a joint Cook County Chamber of Commerce and Cook County Visitors Bureau event.
Visitors Bureau director Linda Kratt and Chamber director Jim Boyd shared emcee honors. The event included the presentation of seven awards for 2013—with a tie for Entrepreneur of the Year.
Boyd noted that the Cook County Chamber could have given out “literally dozens” of awards to local business owners who have given their “life’s blood to their business and the community.” However, he said they couldn’t give out that many awards in one evening. He added, “Please know however that these awards represent how very much we value the toil and sacrifices that make businesses in Cook County work.”
Recognized by their peers and receiving a beautiful “Northern Lights” bowl crafted by Joan Farnam of Grand Marais were:
Entrepreneur of the Year: Jennifer Stoltz, for her outstanding performance managing the $2.3 million reconstruction of the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op building.
Entrepreneur of the Year:
Jeff and Sarah Lynch, for reconstruction of their business, Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte, into a beautiful, expanded establishment with outstanding Highway 61 presence that adds significantly to the economic and physical appeal of Tofte
Business of the Year (established): Jack and Howard Hedstrom of Hedstrom Lumber Company, for a century of providing jobs for Cook County residents and income for county businesses.
Leadership Award: Chairman of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Norman Deschampe for decades of extraordinary personal service to enhancing the economic vitality, and cultural and political integrity of his community.