BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota judge sentenced a white supremacist Tuesday to four years of probation but no additional jail time for terrorizing residents of the small community of Leith, where he tried unsuccessfully to establish an all-white enclave and has left behind a legacy of fear.
Craig Cobb, 62, has been jailed since mid-November when he was arrested on seven felony terrorizing counts for scaring residents while patrolling Leith with a gun. He was due to be a free man later Tuesday after going through the jail release process — a reality that scares officials in Leith.
“Now we’ve got this lunatic out on the street again,” City Councilman Lee Cook said after the sentencing.
Cobb — who says he is not a violent man — moved to Leith more than two years ago, bought a house and 12 other lots, and encouraged other white supremacists to join him to create a voting majority in the community of about two dozen residents. In August, he publicized his plans to fill the town with other white supremacists and take over the town government.
Judge David Reich sentenced Cobb to four years supervised probation but no additional prison time beyond the time served since November.
“The majority of the victim impact statements and victims in this case indicated they were in agreement with the plea agreement,” Reich said of a deal Cobb had struck with Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock, who had wanted a 4-year prison term for Cobb, said outside the court that it would take a long time for the town to recover.
“When are we going to be safe from him? He has made his mark on our lives,” Schock said.
Cobb said he now plans to seek permission to move to Missouri to care for his mother.
“I regret my actions. I know I was wrong and I accept responsibility for my actions. It was an unfortunate confluence of circumstances and bad decisions on my part,” Cobb told the court.
Cobb told The Associated Press earlier this month that he plans to “retire from white nationalism” because he’s tired of the spotlight.
Cobb had said earlier that he brandished a gun in Leith in response to violence and harassment directed toward him. He no longer owns any property in Leith, and in late February he pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor menacing counts and one felony terrorizing charge. The original charges against Cobb carried a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison.
The terms of Cobb’s probation bar him from having contact with victims, but Cook, one of the victims in the case, said he had been given no information on where Cobb will be going. He and mayor Schock said they worry whether the town will be safe — especially since Cobb gave three of his Leith lots to white separatist Tom Metzger, National Socialist Movement Commander Jeff Schoep and white supremacist Alex Linder.
“It’s a failure of justice,” Cook said. “This guy gets off. He made our lives a living hell and now he’s walking the streets again.”
Schwarz said outside the courtroom that he did not know where Cobb would go, but that Cobb would be monitored by GPS.
“If all of a sudden he gets within 500 yards of Leith, he’ll be back in jail,” Schwarz said.
Schock, Cook and Leith website operator Greg Bruce earlier this month filed a complaint against Schwarz with the state attorney disciplinary board, alleging the prosecutor has acted unprofessionally and possibly unethically.
Schwarz believes he handled the case properly and said Tuesday that he felt justice had been served. Schock and Cook disputed that. Cook said Cobb and Kynan Dutton — a Cobb loyalist who also was arrested in the gun incident and earlier received a similar sentence — “are not Boy Scouts.”
“They were out looking for a reason to shoot us,” Cook said. “Just like the guy in Kansas City who gunned down a 14-year-old boy — they’re buddies.”
Cobb has acknowledged a friendship with Frazier Glenn Cross, who is accused of killing three people at Jewish sites in Kansas earlier this month. Cobb told The Associated Press earlier that he spoke with Cross just three days before the killings but that the allegations against Cross have nothing to do with him.