A young woman Tuesday testified that Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell touched her inappropriately and tried to convince her to have sex with him when she was 17.
Scannell was a "mentor" and "father figure," the woman, now 19, told jurors. The pair rarely went more than a few days without seeing each other in the summer of 2012. They kissed on several occasions, but on two dates in August, she testified, he inappropriately touched her breasts, stomach and legs. She said she told him, "No, that can't happen."
He suggested later they have sex, she said, but she declined. "I was confused," she said in court during nearly three hours of testimony. "I didn't want to lose him in my life. I knew what we were doing wasn't OK."
Scannell, now 48, has been charged with two felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was indicted by a grand jury in October, months after a judge ordered Scannell to stay away from the then-17-year-old after her parents sought a harassment restraining order.
A key question in the trial is whether Scannell held a "position of authority" over the woman when she was 17. That's necessary to prove the charges, since the alleged victim was older than 16.
Special prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger argued Tuesday that the long history between the alleged victim and Scannell — he had been her soccer and tennis coach, guitar teacher and academic and social counselor over the years — demonstrated that "position of authority."
Scannell's attorney Joseph Tamburino did not deny Scannell told the girl he loved her and that they kissed and hugged. But he disputed that there was illegal sexual conduct. When the alleged victim was interviewed by state investigators, she admitted they had kissed but said they hadn't engaged in sexual contact, Tamburino said.
On the stand, the woman said she hadn't told the truth at the time because she was embarrassed and scared. She'll be cross examined by the defense on Wednesday.
Scannell was thrust into the public spotlight in December 2011 after he was shot three times in the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais by a man he had just successfully prosecuted for criminal sexual conduct for his relationship with a teenage girl.
The prosecutor survived, but the assailant, Daniel Schlienz, later died in jail from a blood disorder. The incident brought to the surface a longstanding culture in Cook County of older men sexually pursuing younger girls, and law enforcement's difficulty in prosecuting it.
Tamburino argued that Scannell's role in the girl's life declined dramatically as he recovered from the shooting.
Scannell's been on medical leave from his Cook County post since last October.
He was first elected county attorney in 2006, and re-elected in 2010, but is not running this year. He sat next to his attorney throughout the trial, conferring with him frequently. His wife, two sons, father-in-law and other supporters sat behind him in the courtroom.
Scannell has not spoken publicly since the allegations emerged, but he has apologized for his actions. His family has said he suffered from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder since the shooting, and has sought psychiatric treatment.
The trial is expected to last through the week. Tamburino said Scannell will testify in his own defense.