- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The man who prosecuted a white supremacist who tried to take over a tiny town in rural Grant County is resigning at the end of the month, but he says his decision has nothing to do with the backlash over his handling of the case.

Todd Schwarz, a Bismarck attorney, is quitting his part-time Grant County state’s attorney role to take a full-time assistant state’s attorney position in McKenzie County. He’ll be working under State’s Attorney Jake Rodenbiker, a longtime friend.

Schwarz was heavily criticized by city officials in Leith for his prosecution of Craig Cobb, who unsuccessfully tried to turn the town into an Aryan enclave in 2013. Many people wanted Cobb sent to prison for menacing and terrorizing residents, but he reached a deal with Schwarz that put him on probation instead. Schwarz also reached a plea deal with a cohort of Cobb’s who also avoided prison.

Schwarz has steadfastly defended his work, including dropping a charge against Cobb for allegedly terrorizing Greg Bruce, who acts as Leith’s city spokesman.

“Me leaving Grant County has nothing to do with Cobb, nothing to do with the folks down there,” Schwarz said. “It’s extremely hard to leave them, but this is just a better opportunity for me.”

Bruce and two other city officials last year accused Schwarz of acting unprofessionally and possibly unethically while prosecuting Cobb. A committee of the state’s attorney disciplinary board rejected the complaint.

Earlier this year, Bruce also led an unsuccessful petition drive to urge the Grant County Commission to fire Schwarz, saying his handling of Cobb’s case was “an international humiliation” and that the prosecutor was an embarrassment.

“There were more than just a few people angry about his handling of the Craig Cobb case,” Bruce said. “We’re happy that he’s gone from Grant County.”

County Commission Chairman Keith Payne said Schwarz has done good work for the county.

Schwarz said he also is leaving satisfied with his work.

“If you’re going to be in a state’s attorney position and your goal is to make everybody happy, you’re really going to fail miserably,” he said.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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