Petition drive underway to remove prosecutor who handled white supremacist case

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — A year after white supremacist Craig Cobb was released from jail on probation, an effort is underway to remove the prosecutor some blame for setting him free.

Greg Bruce, who handles media relations for the town of Leith that Cobb and Kynan Dutton tried unsuccessfully to turn into an Aryan enclave, is leading a petition drive to encourage the Grant County Commission to fire State's Attorney Todd Schwarz. Listed reasons include "mishandling the highly notorious criminal case of Craig Cobb and Kynan Dutton so much from the beginning that it turned into an international humiliation."

Bruce says he hopes the petition will convince the commission that "Schwarz is a detriment and an embarrassment to Grant County."

Schwarz did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment, but has previously defended his work in the case that ended with Cobb and Dutton reaching plea agreements that spared them prison time on terrorizing and menacing charges.

Meanwhile, the town's mayor is preparing for a fall trial on a misdemeanor charge stemming from city officials' efforts last year to clean up dilapidated buildings after their dispute with Cobb. Ryan Schock has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the charge of failing to control or report a dangerous fire. He faces up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine if convicted.

Leith officials call the charge against Schock "retribution" by Schwarz and the state attorney general's office because the mayor and two other city officials last year accused him of acting unprofessionally and possibly unethically while prosecuting Cobb. Schock, Bruce and City Councilman Lee Cook wanted Cobb to serve prison time but he got four years of probation instead.

A committee of the state attorney disciplinary board rejected the complaint against Schwarz.

Schwarz has rejected the retribution accusation.

Assistant Attorney General Paul Emerson, who is prosecuting Schock, did not respond to an AP request for comment.

Schock's trial is scheduled for Oct. 1-2. Both sides' attorneys wanted two days to hear the case rather than one, according to Deputy Clerk of Court Julie Fischer. Defense attorney Steven Balaban declined to discuss his reasons, and Emerson didn't comment.


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