(Reuters) - A man charged with threatening residents of a small North Dakota town pleaded guilty on Friday to lesser offenses and agreed to testify against a white supremacist who had been working to establish an all-white enclave there, his attorney said.
Kynan Dutton, 29, pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanors and agreed to testify against co-defendant Craig Cobb in a deal with prosecutors that reduced his charges from seven terrorizing felonies, Dutton’s attorney, Robert Quick, said.
Dutton had moved to Leith, North Dakota, a town of about 20 people, to help out Cobb, Quick said. His plea agreement allowed him to be released from jail on Friday.
Dutton and Cobb, 62, were accused of brandishing firearms and sticks and threatening residents of the town in November. They have been in jail since their arrests on November 16.
“There is no law against being a jerk,” assistant state’s attorney for Grant County, Todd Schwarz, said in an interview in November. “You have a constitutional right to be a jerk if you want to be. When you start bringing guns and threats into it, it’s beyond the First Amendment or anybody’s rational interpretation of it.”
Cobb spent months buying properties in Leith, according to the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center. The town is about 75 miles southwest of Bismarck, the state capital.
The Southern Poverty Law Center revealed the purchases, bringing national attention to Cobb’s efforts and sparking opposition from town residents.
As part of the deal with the county prosecutor, Dutton pleaded guilty to five counts of misdemeanor menacing and two counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, Quick said. He agreed to two years of supervised probation and to provide information about Cobb to prosecutors, he said.
Quick said his client was not a white supremacist but was someone who happened to favor the National Socialist Movement. He is a father with no criminal history and a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, Quick said.
Dutton moved to North Dakota from Oregon partly because of the prospect of free rent offered by Cobb, and to support Cobb, Quick said.
“He thought Mr. Cobb was getting poor treatment,” Quick said.
Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; editing by David Bailey and Matthew Lewis