Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published November 18 2013
White supremacists Cobb, Dutton held without bond on terrorizing charges
Cobb, 62, and Dutton, 29, each face seven counts of terrorizing, a Class C felony, including five counts that carry minimum mandatory sentences of two years in prison because they involve firearms.
Grant County Assistant State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz said he requested the men be held without bond because they pose a flight risk and their behaviors demonstrate a threat to the community.
“The people of the community are rightfully very afraid of these two men. For God’s sake, they came to their homes with loaded firearms,” Schwarz said. “I don’t know what prompted their action, but it’s not going to be tolerated.”
Cobb bought up property in Leith, home to about 20 people, in hopes of attracting more white supremacists there and taking over the town’s government. Dutton is among the first to join Cobb in Leith, about 75 miles southwest of Bismarck.
Court documents filed in South Central District Court state the Grant County Sheriff’s Office responded to two 911 calls Saturday related to Cobb and Dutton approaching people while carrying long-barreled weapons.
Cobb and Dutton are accused of terrorizing five people with loaded firearms, four on Saturday and one on Friday. At times, the men had their fingers on the trigger of their weapons or held them in the “ready position,” court documents say.
One couple told authorities they feared for their lives after Cobb and Dutton followed the woman home and then yelled obscenities while standing outside their home, court records say.
The other two terrorizing charges stem from an incident Saturday in which a woman and her mother say they were driving through Leith and encountered Cobb and Dutton and two unleashed pit bulls, court records say. One of the dogs ran in front of the vehicle, prompting the women to stop.
Cobb and Dutton allegedly approached the vehicle with canes raised in a threatening manner, using obscenities and accusing the women of trying to run over their dogs.
Dutton’s wife cooperated with investigators, and authorities have recovered the weapons, Schwarz said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also is examining the case and may pursue federal charges, Schwarz said, adding that he did not know the specifics of that investigation.
Cobb indicated in court that he will represent himself and Dutton plans to request a court-appointed attorney, Schwarz said.
Leith City Councilman Lee Cook, the first one who called 911 Saturday after the men approached his property, said he was “ecstatic” that Cobb and Dutton are being held without bail.
“Everybody in the town of Leith is very excited,” said Cook. “Hopefully we can get our lives back to normal.”
But Cook, whose family has been staying out of town out of safety concerns related to Cobb, said residents will continue to be on guard.
“It is a huge amount of relief, but everybody is still wondering who could show up in town,” Cook said.
Law enforcement help
It took at least one hour Saturday after he dialed 911 before law enforcement arrived, Cook said.
Grant County has three deputies and a sheriff who are responsible for patrolling the county, which is more than 1,600 square miles. One of those deputies is in basic training.
“That leaves three of us to try to handle the whole county,” Sheriff Steve Bay said.
Schwarz said he wishes the department could have faster response times, but Saturday, the on-duty deputy was at a call in another part of the county and an off-duty deputy came in to assist.
“It’s not like we’ve got a deputy right next door whenever something’s going to happen with nothing else to do,” Schwarz said.
Bay said the department is doing more patrols of Leith and regularly attends city council meetings.
“Leith is taking up about 85 percent of our time, and we’ve got a pretty big county to take care of,” Bay said. “We don’t have the manpower.”
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said his office has offered help to Grant County officials, including assistance from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, but has yet to receive a request for it, though he added he “wouldn’t be surprised” if they ask now.
Stenehjem noted that his office is only an assisting agency so by statute, help must be requested.
“We have made it clear from the beginning that if they feel they need assistance from BCI, or if the state’s attorney feels that they need assistance in prosecuting, we’re here to help. All they need to do is ask,” he said.
The two men are being held in Mercer County because Grant County does not have a jail and contracts with that county, Schwarz said.
The next step for Cobb and Dutton will be a preliminary hearing and arraignment, which have not yet been scheduled, unless the men request bond review hearings, Schwarz said.
Forum News Service reporter Mike Nowatzki contributed to this report.