BISMARCK, N.D. — A white supremacist who tried unsuccessfully to turn the tiny North Dakota town of Leith into an all-white enclave no longer owns any property in the community.
Craig Cobb has deeded his six remaining lots back to the town at no charge, Mayor Ryan Schock told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
"We finally got them back,'' he said. "It was definitely a huge relief when (Grant County Sheriff) Steve Bay stopped me and showed me that he had the deeds. I've got them here in my possession.''
The value of the returned properties was not immediately known.
Cobb, 62, is awaiting sentencing for terrorizing residents by carrying out armed patrols in mid-November. He agreed to plead guilty to five misdemeanor charges and one felony terrorizing charge in a deal that would spare him further jail time, but Judge David Reich has ordered a presentence investigation before he accepts the deal. The plea deal did not call for Cobb to return his property in Leith, although Grant County State's Attorney Todd Schwarz said he took Cobb's willingness to do so into account during negotiations and Bay said he told Cobb it might help the situation.
"Mr. Cobb thought it was in his best interest,'' Bay said. "He has no intention of coming to Leith anymore.''
Cobb's attorney, Ryan Heintz, did not return a call for comment on Tuesday.
Cobb, who also is wanted on a hate crime charge in Canada, moved to Leith about two years ago and bought a dozen properties, valued last year at $10,000. He encouraged others with white power ambitions to join him so they could create a voting majority in the town that had just 23 residents when he moved in.
After his arrest, Cobb sold three properties, including his home, to a resident of nearby Carson who plans to use the house for storage.
Not long after he bought the Leith properties, he gave some of them to white separatist Tom Metzger, National Socialist Movement Commander Jeff Schoep and white supremacist Alex Linder.
Metzger told the AP last November that he had planned to return the lot Cobb gave him because he didn't agree with Cobb's methods. But on Tuesday, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the White Aryan Resistance said he would not be returning his lot after all because he thinks Cobb has been treated unfairly.
"They have not gone lightly on Craig Cobb, so I'm not planning on returning anything,'' Metzger said. He said he doesn't know what he will do with the lot.
The Associated Press left messages seeking comment from Schoep and Linder on what they plan to do with their properties. Schock said the city hopes to talk with them about the possibility of them returning their properties too.
The mayor also said the return of Cobb's properties does not change the wishes of town leaders that Cobb be sentenced to prison.
Nonetheless, he said the town considers Cobb's attempt to take control over and that Leith will celebrate that, along with the town's 105th anniversary, with a two-day festival in July.