BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – One of two white supremacists accused of terrorizing residents in the small North Dakota town of Leith pleaded guilty to lesser charges on Friday in a deal that spares him more jail time.
Kynan Dutton, 29, avoided a felony conviction by pleading guilty to misdemeanor counts of menacing and disorderly conduct, and he will no longer be allowed to buy guns. The plea deal also requires that he testify against his co-defendant, Craig Cobb.
Dutton was the only man who permanently joined Cobb after Cobb moved to Leith about two years ago and began calling for other white supremacists to join him. He wanted to create a voting majority in the community of 23 people so they could turn it into an Aryan enclave.
Instead, Cobb and Dutton were arrested in mid-November after being accused of terrorizing residents with guns. They said they were patrolling the town because of violence and harassment directed at them, including vandalism to their property.
Prosecutors filed seven counts of Class C felony terrorizing against both men, with each count carrying a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
After pleading guilty to the misdemeanor counts, Dutton was sentenced to time served and two years of probation.
Judge Donald Jorgenson refused to grant defense attorney Robert Quick’s request that Dutton’s criminal record be cleared once he successfully completes probation. Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz requested that a conviction on one count stay on his record so Dutton couldn’t buy guns in the future.
“He has to understand, as an adult, you make decisions and there are consequences,” Schwarz said.
Both Quick and Schwarz described Dutton as being misled by Cobb, who they said offered free rent and a fresh start to Dutton, an Iraq War veteran who came with his girlfriend and several of her children from Oregon.
“They were looking for that American dream and not to start some white enclave,” Quick said. “Obviously, everything got taken out of control, and taken too far.”
Dutton told the judge he was eager to get back to his family and start rebuilding his life.
“This has been rough on us all, I know I can do better for them as a free man than here, incarcerated,” he said.
Court documents indicate Dutton’s girlfriend, Deborah Henderson, now lives in Underwood with three of her children.
Cobb remains jailed on $1 million cash bond and awaits a Feb. 10 pretrial conference. His defense attorney, Ryan Heintz, did not return email or phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment about how Dutton’s testimony could affect Cobb’s case.
Heintz is trying to get his bail lowered to $35,000, saying Cobb is not a flight risk. Schwarz disputes the argument, noting that Cobb – a native of Missouri – fled Vancouver, Canada, in 2010 after authorities there charged him with promoting hatred through a blog.
Canadian authorities have not approached the U.S. to extradite Cobb because the charge against him in Canada doesn’t exist under U.S. law, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.