Prosecutor seeks to have one count against Cobb dropped
BISMARCK – Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz has moved to dismiss one of the seven felony charges against white supremacist Craig Cobb, who is accused of terrorizing people last fall in the southwestern North Dakota town of Leith.
Schwarz asked a judge in a motion filed Wednesday to dismiss the count that relates to alleged victim Gregory Bruce, who operates Leith’s unofficial website.
The alleged terrorizing incident happened Nov. 16 as Cobb and cohort Kynan Dutton were conducting an armed patrol of property Cobb had purchased in Leith with hopes of taking over the town government and creating an all-white enclave.
Bruce and Leith City Councilman Lee Cook were outside Cook’s house when Cobb and Dutton walked up to the property in a terrorizing manner while carrying loaded long-barreled weapons, the charges allege. Grant County Sheriff’s Deputy John Foss testified at a preliminary hearing that Bruce and Cook were afraid for their lives.
However, Schwarz says in the motion that Bruce told him and Foss after Cobb’s pretrial hearing on Feb. 10 “that he had no fear that Mr. Cobb was going to cause him any injury.”
Bruce’s statement contradicted what he had previously told Schwarz and investigators, the motion says.
“In his original statements, Mr. Bruce indicated that terrorizing was the appropriate charge, however, upon further review at this stage of the case, it is clear that Mr. Bruce lacked the requisite candor, trustworthiness, and credibility for this count to be continued any further,” Schwarz wrote.
Bruce said the comment in question was made in reference to the fact that Cobb was jailed in Mercer County and couldn’t harm him.
“The man took it out of context,” he said of Schwarz.
Cobb has pleaded not guilty to the seven Class C felony charges, which combined could put him in prison for up to 35 years if convicted. Five of the charges, including the one related to Bruce, carry a mandatory minimum two-year sentence because they involve firearms.
A three-day jury trial is set for July 15-17 in Grant County District Court. Judge David Reich was assigned to the case Thursday.
Earlier this week, Schwarz told Forum News Service that Bruce was hampering plea agreement negotiations with Cobb by spreading misinformation. He called Bruce’s behavior “unprofessional” and “childish” and said Bruce had made statements that “created some difficulties that need to be addressed before we can move forward.”
Bruce said he believes Schwarz’s attempt to dismiss the charge may be a reaction to critical comments Bruce has made online about Schwarz’s handling of the case.
“Right now, it’s a personal grudge that he has against me, in my opinion,” Bruce said.
Schwarz did not return a message left on his cellphone Thursday afternoon.
Bruce, who lives in New Leipzig, said he, Cook and Leith Mayor Ryan Schock want Cobb to stand trial before a jury as opposed to getting a plea agreement.
“We want him to be accountable for the terrorizing that he did,” he said.
Schwarz said Monday that the five other victims are open to a plea agreement, which he said would at a minimum bar Cobb from owning guns and require him to serve supervised probation.