- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The mayor of Leith says he’s not worried that a documentary of the town’s struggle with a white supremacist might impact his November trial on a misdemeanor charge.

Mayor Ryan Schock is charged with failing to control or report a dangerous fire in a case stemming from city efforts to get rid of condemned buildings, some of which were once owned by white supremacist Craig Cobb. Cobb left the town last year following his failed attempt to turn it into an Aryan enclave.

An award-winning documentary of the town’s clash with Cobb by New York filmmakers Michael Nichols and Christopher Walker includes scenes of Schock and others burning a building, including footage of people throwing fuel on the flames and scrambling out of the way of flare-ups. The film also shows many of the dilapidated buildings that were eyesores in Leith before the efforts to clean up the community.

Schock said he doesn’t think the scenes might influence potential jurors.

“I don’t think it’s going to have anything to do with (the case) one way or the other,” he said.

Defense attorney Steven Balaban and Assistant Attorney General Paul Emerson, who is prosecuting Schock, did not respond to requests for comment.

The film, “Welcome to Leith,” drew large audiences in theaters in Bismarck and Mott last weekend, and it’s scheduled for more showings in Bismarck and Hebron before Schock goes on trial starting Nov. 17.

At Bismarck’s Grand Theatres, nine showings of the film drew 1,043 people, marking the second-best drawing movie of the weekend, owner Jerry Brekke said. The three-day run out-grossed a two-week run in New York City, according to Nichols. The film also sold out the 183-seat Mott Playhouse Theatre for a single showing.

Schock and other city officials took part in question-and-answer sessions with audience members after some of the showings. Only one person inquired about the burning, according to Schock.

“One gal was wondering if the building that was burned in the film was the one they’re charging me with. It was a different one,” he said.

Schock, who was charged in January, denies wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine if convicted. His trial has been rescheduled three times, and Schock said he just wants to get the case over with.

“It’s frustrating,” he said.

“Welcome to Leith” premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and has since been accepted at film festivals in Australia, England, France and Canada. It won a best documentary award at film festivals in London and Boston. It’s playing at theaters in nearly a dozen cities across the country.

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