Prosecutor: Alleged victim causing difficulties in Cobb case
BISMARCK — The prosecutor trying to negotiate a plea agreement with white supremacist Craig Cobb said Monday that one of the people Cobb allegedly terrorized in Leith is hampering the process by spreading misinformation.
Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz said alleged victim Gregory Bruce, who runs Leith’s unofficial website, has made statements that “have created some difficulties that need to be addressed before we can move forward.”
“I think his behavior is unprofessional and I think it’s very unnecessary,” Schwarz said. “To a certain degree, he’s being childish … and as a result there are a number of people who are misinformed ... creating much more of a storm than it needs to be.”
Bruce did not return multiple messages left on his cell phone Monday seeking comment.
Cobb, 62, has pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges accusing him of terrorizing Leith residents in mid-November. Some of the incidents occurred as Cobb and 29-year-old Kynan Dutton conducted an armed patrol of property that Cobb had bought in Leith with hopes of taking over the town government and creating an all-white community.
Dutton faced the same charges as Cobb but reached a plea agreement that resulted in his release Jan. 25 with time served and two years of supervised probation. The deal also requires him to testify in Cobb’s case.
In an editorial posted last weekend to the www.leithnd.com website and the Facebook page “Leith Nation for Justice,” Bruce wrote that he had learned through a “reliable source” that Dutton may not testify against Cobb.
Dutton, now living in Underwood, said in a phone interview Monday that he plans to honor his plea agreement. He also noted that it doesn’t require him to testify against Cobb, but rather to give truthful testimony.
“Frankly, if they let me testify, I probably will have a great part in setting Craig free, because the truth will come out and he will be exonerated from all charges because they’re bunk in the first place,” he said.
During Cobb’s most recent court hearing on Feb. 10, the judge gave attorneys a three-week extension to try to reach a plea agreement. Immediately afterward, Schwarz met with some of the seven alleged victims to discuss possible terms of a plea deal.
Bruce said in an interview after the meeting that he would agree with “pretty much anything that Schwarz comes up with,” but that the victims left the meeting thinking Cobb “needs to do some time.”
Bruce, who lives in Elgin about 12 miles northwest of Leith, said later in the week that after discussing it later, he and four other victims agreed Cobb should stand trial.
But Schwarz said Monday he has since spoken to at least five victims who said otherwise.
“Every one of them (is) perfectly willing to go to trial. But every one of them (is) perfectly willing to reach a plea agreement that accomplishes the appropriate goals,” he said.
Schwarz said if a plea deal is reached, the conditions will include that Cobb must serve supervised probation and can never legally own a gun again.
Schwarz said alleged victim Lee Cook, a Leith City Council member, hasn’t returned his phone calls. But Cook said Monday in a phone interview that Schwarz hasn’t called him or returned his calls. He also said he and Leith Mayor Ryan Schock are in frequent contact with Bruce and have input into what gets posted on the website.
“We’re very pissed about this plea deal,” Cook said.
Cook said his acceptance of a plea agreement would depend on how much longer it would require Cobb to serve in jail, saying six months wouldn’t be enough.
“He hasn’t served as much time as he’s put our lives through hell,” Cook said.
Meanwhile, Dutton said an article last week in the Bismarck Tribune reporting that he and girlfriend Deborah Henderson were planning to buy the house they’re renting in Underwood with help from a white separatist movement was “a complete article of absolute falsehoods based on rumor.”
The article cited posts on a Pioneer Little Europe website thread seeking donations for “DH and her three children” for “a target home … which meets (our) beach heading in North Dakota for future settlers.”
Atlee Yarrow, in a blog post Monday on www.pioneerlittleeurope.com, called the article speculation based on an outdated thread “which was talking about a completely different part of the state.”
Henderson said she “knew nothing about” any effort by Pioneer Little Europe to help them buy a house.
“We have no intent of starting a PLE in any fashion. We just want to be left alone in Underwood,” Dutton said.
Henderson said she lost her job at a gas station in Washburn on Friday because of the article. A manager at the station had no comment.
Dutton said he is looking for a job, “but given my notoriety, it’s very hard to become employed.”