Complaint filed against prosecutor: Leith officials allege ‘unprofessional’ behavior in white supremacist’s case
LEITH, N.D. — City officials here have filed a complaint against the prosecutor who brokered a plea deal with a white supremacist who tried to take over the town, claiming Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz used “inflammatory and vulgar language” while interviewing Craig Cobb’s alleged terrorizing victims.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock, City Councilman Lee Cook and New Leipzig resident Gregory Bruce, the city’s website developer, all signed the complaint alleging unprofessional conduct and possible unethical practices by Schwarz.
They’re asking the state Disciplinary Board to censure Schwarz, remove him from the Cobb case and appoint a special prosecutor to bring Cobb to trial.
“We feel Mr. Schwarz has bungled these cases involving Craig Cobb and Kynan Dutton by offering plea deals to both men rather than taking them to trial,” the complaint states.
Schwarz said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that he hadn’t seen the complaint.
“Very simply, if (Bruce) wants to complain about a hard word that may or may not have been said, he better look in the mirror,” Schwarz said. “I’m not offended by coarse language. I don’t make a practice of using it in a professional setting.”
The complaint accuses Schwarz of using harsh language during a Jan. 23 interview of Cook and Bruce — two of the seven victims allegedly terrorized in November by Cobb and white separatist Kynan Dutton while they were on an armed patrol of Leith — and again during a Feb. 10 interview of Bruce, Schock and two other alleged victims.
Schwarz said he didn’t know what the complaint meant by “inflammatory” and “vulgar.”
“I will say that I find some of Mr. Cobb’s beliefs vulgar,” he said.
Cobb, who is wanted on a hate-crime charge in Canada, moved to Leith a year ago and bought up property there with hopes of creating an all-white enclave.
He entered guilty pleas Feb. 27 to one charge of felony terrorizing and five counts of misdemeanor menacing as part of a plea deal that would require him to serve four years of supervised probation but no additional jail time.
But Judge David Reich said he wanted more information before accepting the plea agreement and sentencing Cobb, and he ordered a pre-sentence investigation, including a psychological evaluation.
Bruce said Tuesday he hopes the complaint will have some bearing on the judge’s decision of whether to accept Cobb’s pleas or order him to stand trial. As part of Dutton’s plea deal that gave him probation, he agreed to testify truthfully in Cobb’s case.
Cobb’s next court date hasn’t been set. He remains in custody in the Mercer County Jail on $100,000 bond.
The complaint also says it was a “travesty of justice” that, at Schwarz’s request, the court dismissed the charges against Cobb and Dutton related to their alleged terrorizing of Bruce.
Schwarz defended that decision Tuesday.
“My dealings with Mr. Bruce demonstrated that he wasn’t reliable enough to put on the stand or to sustain a charge,” he said.
Brent Edison, an attorney for the Disciplinary Board, said he couldn’t comment on whether a complaint against Schwarz had been filed because such complaints are confidential until there is a determination of misconduct and a petition for discipline. Bruce said he has a return receipt showing that the board received the complaint Thursday.
The Disciplinary Board receives about 200 complaints against attorneys per year, with 229 complaints received in 2012, Edison said. Complaints are assigned to one of the State Bar Association’s three inquiry committees, which meet quarterly, he said.
Reach Mike Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.