A North Dakota judge sentenced a white supremacist Tuesday to four years of probation but no additional jail time for terrorizing residents of the small community of Leith, where he tried unsuccessfully to establish an all-white enclave.
Craig Cobb, 62, has been jailed since mid-November when he was arrested on seven felony terrorizing counts for scaring residents while patrolling Leith with a gun.
He moved to Leith more than two years ago, bought a house and 12 other lots, and encouraged others with similar views to join him to create a voting majority in the community of about two dozen residents. In August, he publicized his plans to fill the town with other white supremacists and take over the town government.
Judge David Reich sentenced Cobb to 4 years supervised probation but no additional prison time beyond the time served since November.
Cobb said he now plans to seek permission to move to Missouri to care for his mother.
"I regret my actions. I know I was wrong and I accept responsibility for my actions. It was an unfortunate confluence of circumstances and bad decisions on my part," Cobb told the court.
Cobb had said earlier that he brandished a gun in Leith in response to violence and harassment directed toward him. He has since given up interest in most of his Leith properties and in late February pleaded guilty in a deal with Grant County State's Attorney Todd Schwarz.
The original charges against Cobb carried a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison.
The plea agreement called for him to plead guilty to five misdemeanor menacing counts and one felony terrorizing charge.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock, who had wanted a 4-year prison term for Cobb, said outside the court that it would take a long time for the town to recover.
"When are we going to be safe from him? He has made his mark on our lives," Schock said.
Reich ordered a presentence investigation, commonly known as a PSI, before accepting the deal, which was 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.
Cobb said in a letter to The Associated Press 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.
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.
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