A man who for two months turned a town upside down, ridiculed and threatened its citizens and preached hatred against blacks and Jews was freed from jail Tuesday, and no one was there to cheer his release.
Craig Cobb, 62, who’d been jailed since November on charges of terrorizing Leith residents after planning to turn Leith into a neo-Nazi settlement, was released on a plea agreement that reduced all but one of the felony charges to misdemeanors, with time served and four years’ probation.
Cobb, dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans, was clean-shaven with his gray hair combed back for the hearing at the Burleigh County Courthouse. He said he regretted his actions and plans to go to Missouri, if that state will take his probation.
Other than Cobb, no one who left the half-hour hearing appeared pleased with the deal.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock and Councilman Lee Cook stood in the courthouse lobby and had strong words for Grant County Assistant State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz, who brokered the plea and dropped the most vocal victim from the charges.
“If Schwarz had done his job, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” said Cook, who also was among people Cobb approached with a gun the November day he was arrested.
“This is a failure of justice,” Cook said. “He made our lives a living hell and he’s walking the streets today.”
Schock said Leith was the most peaceful place on Earth before Cobb showed up and started promoting white supremacy and luring other neo-Nazis to town. Cobb had been in Leith, working in the Bakken for more than a year before he started promoting a Leith takeover on white supremacist websites.
Schock said the legal proceedings were over, but it hasn’t ended for Leith because Cobb gave three lots in town to other notorious white supremacists.
“When will we be safe again? We’re still getting threats from all his cronies,” Schock said.
Schock said he wanted Cobb locked away for four years so people in town wouldn’t have to look over their shoulders all the time.
South Central District Judge David Reich released Cobb on 26 conditions, including that he must stay 500 yards from Leith and have no contact with his victims.
Despite the opinions of the people who showed up to the Tuesday morning hearing, Reich said most of the victim impact statements filed in the case were in support of the judge accepting the plea agreement.
Schwarz said Cobb will be wearing a GPS monitor and his movements could be tracked for up to four years.
“If he goes back (to Leith), we’ll be watching,” Schwarz said.
He said he felt the plea deal was fair and any trial would likely have ended with the same outcome.
Cobb served 167 days in jail, far longer than the two months of hardcore supremacy activism he staged from the small house he quietly purchased along with other lots in town.
He has since sold his house and deeded other property back to the city. Two of his supporters and former housemates, Kynan Dutton and Deborah Henderson, now live in Underwood. They were part of the armed patrol and Dutton was released from jail in January on a plea deal.
Later Tuesday, outside the Parole and Probation office where his release paperwork was being completed, Cobb said he wouldn’t talk to the Tribune because it started “all this.”
The Tribune broke the Cobb story back in August 2013.