Updated: 07/23/2014 7:33 PM
Created: 07/23/2014 5:32 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell took the witness stand today for what was an emotional testimony from the man charged with two accounts of 4th degree criminal sexual misconduct for a relationship he allegedly had with a 17-year old girl in August 2012.
The defense questioned him for nearly two hours about his alleged relationship with the now 19-year old girl, the Cook County community and the courthouse shooting that nearly took his life in December 2011.
While his attorney Joe Tamburino was questioning him, Scannell said he was the girl's tennis and soccer coach, guitar teacher and family friend. He said this level of involvement with kids other than his own two sons wasn't unusual for him.
"Before I got shot, I was kind of like the Cook County mentor," Scannell said.
He testified that he never had romantic feelings for the girl until one day in spring 2012 when he was helping her with college applications. Scannell said he told her he was attracted to her and that he couldn't help her anymore.
On a trip to the Twin Cities to visit family friends and watch a tennis tournament on June 8, 2012, Scannell said he was alone with the girl in his car on his way to pick up his son from the airport. He testified that he told her again that he was attracted to her.
"She put her hand on the console, and I thought 'Should I touch her hand?" Scannell testified today. He said they then interlaced pinky fingers and he put her hand on her neck as he told her about his feelings.
During this conversation, both Scannell and his sister, Tara Scannell, testified that he accidentally called her on his cell phone. Tara Scannell overhead the conversation her brother was having with the girl.
It was that night after he learned his sister had heard the conversation that Scannell said contemplated suicide.
"I slept not one wink ... I thought variously about running out into traffic and killing myself."
Scannell said he called his wife the next day and told her about his feelings for the girl. He said his wife reacted calmly, saying they would work through the situation and get help.
"I am graced by (my wife's) presence in my life," Scannell said.
After an episode weeks later, Scannell said he was hospitalized at a psychiatric ward and he did not speak to the teenage girl for some time. Weeks later, he said they began talking again, and he said he would see her at her work.
Scannell said one time in summer 2012 he was at her work, and the girl suggested they go for a drive on her break.
He said they talked about his feelings toward her and "how being with her was the only thing that was keeping me from jumping off a cliff."
Scannell said he and the girl began going for drives more frequently. On the stand, he recalled the first time they kissed on one of their drives. Before they left for that drive, Scannell testified he remembered thinking "this is a really bad idea."
Scannell said it became routine to meet at a particular road outside of Grand Marais, and that he and the girl would often meet each other at the location in separate vehicles.
"I think we got into a vehicle and kissed less than 10 times," Scannell said.
Tamburino asked Scannell about the allegations that he touched the girl's breasts during one of these meetings. Scannell said he could remember a time when he accidentally "leaned over and brushed her breasts." Scannell said the girl then laughed and said that can't happen. Scannell said he knew what he was doing was wrong.
"She's too young. I'm too old If anyone finds out, we're going to get into a scandal," Scannell testified Wednesday.
Tamburino did not question Scannell about the girl's testimony Tuesday that alleged Scannell asked the girl to have sexual intercourse with him.
After the girl's parents learned about the relationship on Sept. 25, 2012, they asked Scannell to stay away from their daughter. The girl was studying in Spain, but Scannell said the texting and emailing continued by the girl's request as well as his interest while he was receiving treatment at a rehabilitation center in Arizona. The girl's parents filed a restraining order in December 2012.
The prosecution also called Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Investigator John Nordberg to the stand Wednesday. Nordberg said he recovered many documents showing communication between the girl and Scannell after serving Facebook, Apple, Google and LinkedIn with search warrants.
Nordberg said the investigators had wanted to speak with the girl after the restraining order was filed. On Jan, 29, 2013, Nordberg said they had still not spoken with her, so they sent a letter to her family. On Feb. 28, 2013, investigators had their first meeting with the girl.
Molly Hicken, the assistant Cook County attorney, also testified Wednesday and recalled her experience with the courthouse shooting as well as about a dozen conversations she had with Scannell about his relationship with the girl.
Scannell will be cross examined Thursday morning. Judge Shaun Floreke said he plans to have all testimonies completed by the end of the day.
US Steel to Partially Idle Minntac, Potentially Affecting 700
Three weeks after announcing plans to temporarily idle Keewatin Taconite, U.S. Steel has announced plans to temporarily idle a portion of the Minntac plant in Mountain Iron. The company did not announce exactly how many employees will be affected, but union officials told Eyewitness News they expected about 700 workers to be impacted.
Is It Enough? Parent, Teachers Talk Music in Duluth Schools
Duluth East High School Senior Dan Richards has had a lot of success as a cellist this year, including getting into Berklee College of Music and making it to the final round of a statewide contest. His father, however, has expressed concerns that students today don't have the same resources that his son did.
Duluth Loses Bid to Restore Casino Agreement
A federal court has dismissed the City of Duluth's attempt to reinstate an agreement that had provided the city with millions of dollars annually from the Fond-du-Luth Casino. In an opinion Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly upheld a notice of violation issued in 2011, saying the National Indian Gaming Commission was within its rights to issue the violation.
Duluth Superintendent Finalist for Twin Cities Job
After more than three years on the job, a Twin Cities school district announced Duluth Superintendent Bill Gronseth is one of six finalists for their top job.
Douglas County Residents Gather to Advocate for Child Protection
The Douglas County Council on Child Protection held a gathering on Tuesday as part of "Celebrate Children's Day," to kick off National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Government Center Atrium was filled with paper footprints, representing the 1,278 reports that came in last year of abused or neglected children.