- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A white supremacist who unsuccessfully tried to establish an all-white enclave in the North Dakota town of Leith is set to learn his fate for terrorizing residents in the community of fewer than two dozen people.

The dreams of Craig Cobb fizzled, and he is to be sentenced on Tuesday after being jailed for nearly half a year. Whether he spends more time behind bars could depend heavily on a presentence investigation that both sides in the case say is flawed.

Cobb, 62, has been jailed since mid-November after his arrest on seven felony terrorizing counts for allegedly scaring townsfolk while patrolling Leith with a gun. He said his actions were in response to violence and harassment directed toward him. He has since given up interest in all of his Leith properties and in late February he pleaded guilty in a deal with Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz.

Cobb was facing up to 30 years in prison on the original charges. The agreement called for him to plead guilty to five misdemeanor menacing counts and one felony terrorizing charge. In return he would get four years of probation, though he would no longer be allowed to own guns. Judge David Reich ordered the presentence investigation, commonly known as a PSI, before accepting the deal.

Presentence investigations are handled by the state Corrections Department’s Parole and Probation Services. The reports include a variety of information including victim impact statements and are aimed at helping a judge decide on an appropriate sentence.

Schwarz has criticized Cobb’s PSI - which is sealed to the public - saying he found it riddled with errors and wasn’t even sure what sentence it recommended.

“I’m very disappointed in the PSI writer. I expected more professional work,” Schwarz said earlier this month.

Neither Schwarz nor defense attorney Ryan Heintz immediately returned telephone calls to The Associated Press on Monday.

Cobb said in a letter to the AP that he also found inaccuracies in the PSI and feared it could be used “to imprison me for years.” He included a copy of a letter he sent to the state Supreme Court in which he states the PSI could be grounds for an appeal of his sentence.

Both sides in a court case have the ability to object to information in PSIs, “and in particularly contentious cases, that does come up,” said Gregory Gordon, an associate professor at the University of North Dakota law school and director of UND’s Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies. “I think what’s a little unusual is that this is in the context of a plea agreement. They tend not to be as contentious.”

It is more likely for disagreements to be dealt with at sentencing than for a judge to order a new presentence investigation, Gordon said.

“The judge takes very seriously what is in the report because it’s supposedly from a neutral source,” he said.

Leith Mayor Ryan Schock, City Councilman Lee Cook and town website operator Greg Bruce have publicly said they want Cobb imprisoned, and earlier this month they filed a complaint against Schwarz with the state attorney disciplinary board. Schwarz maintained he has handled the case properly, including his decision to drop a charge against Cobb for allegedly terrorizing Bruce.

Schwarz has said Bruce lacks integrity. Bruce maintains Schwarz has acted unprofessionally, and Bruce has sent a letter to Reich imploring the judge to reject the plea deal and bring Cobb to trial.

“I fear he represents a ‘clear and present danger’ to myself, my family and the public at large and should spend the rest of his life in prison,” Bruce wrote.

Cobb has said repeatedly that he is not a violent man. He also has supplied the AP with a copy of a letter he received from the West Central Human Service Center in Bismarck summarizing the results of tests he underwent as part of the presentence investigation, including behavioral and anger assessments. The letter says the testing did not find significant behavior or personality issues or a problem with anger management. The human service center did not recommend mental health or addiction services.


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



Click to Read More

Click to Hide