Public defenders keep quitting on North Dakota white supremacist Craig Cobb

By the time his case goes to trial, white supremacist Craig Cobb may have worked with every full-time public defender in the state of North Dakota.

A fourth attorney has been appointed to represent Cobb, who’s accused of terrorizing a small town he hopes to turn into a whites-only enclave.

Bismarck attorney Ryan Heintz will represent Cobb after three previously appointed public defenders asked to be removed from his case, said Robin Huseby, executive director of the state Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents.

She said that’s certainly unusual, but she was confident that one of the state’s 16 full-time public defenders or 80 or so attorneys who work on a contract basis would be able to represent Cobb.

The 62-year-old Cobb moved to Leith nearly last year, bought some land and a house and urged other white supremacists to join him in the town of 23 residents.

But he’s clashed with his neighbors since arriving and was arrested last month after he was accused of terrorizing residents with guns.

Cobb, who’s wanted in Canada on hate crime charges, was charged with seven felony terrorizing counts that could carry a possible 35-year prison term, if he’s convicted.

However, Cobb insists that he was patrolling the town after he was threatened and harassed.

One of Cobb’s court-appointed attorneys quit after he said his relationship deteriorated with his client, and another asked to be removed due to a conflict of interest because he’d donated money to a legal defense fund set up for Leith.

The third attorney declined comment.

Jeff Schoep, leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, said in September that he would consider helping Cobb pay for his defense, but he said this week that he hadn’t spoken to Cobb since late last month.

"I was not aware of his problems with keeping a public defender; however, as an American citizen he has the right to a public defender, and if that is the route he chooses to take I believe by law a public defender must be appointed," Schoep said.

One of Cobb’s supporters, Kynan Dutton, is also due in court Jan. 13 on the same charges.

Dutton’s girlfriend said Monday that the plan to turn Leith into a white supremacist enclave “is done.”