Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he possessed a firearm as a felon. Photo courtesy Dona Ana County Detention Center
April 22 (UPI) -- A member of an anti-migrant militia in New Mexico pleaded not guilty Monday in a case that federal agents say involved plots to assassinate former President Barack Obama and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, new court records show.
Prosecutors say Larry Mitchell Hopkins led about 20 people in the United Constitutional Patriots group. Its members, FBI agents said, plotted the assassinations in recent years. The FBI began investigating Hopkins in 2017 and arrested him last weekend.
Hopkins, 69, entered the plea during his first court appearance on Monday to a charge of unlawful firearm possession. His attorney, Kelly O'Connell, said the guns and ammunition in question did not belong to Hopkins.
"According to the charges that I read, this is not dealing with what is happening down here," O'Connell said in reference to the militia allegedly detaining migrants at the border.
The group opposed Obama, Clinton and others because the militants viewed them as supporters of the self-declared anti-fascist group antifa, prosecutors say. The agents said billionaire Democratic supporter George Soros was also targeted by the group.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said the group has been detaining migrants near the state's border with Mexico, and a recent Facebook posting by the group included a video showing the practice. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said they'd arrested more than 300 people, including children.
In an affidavit, an FBI agent said the bureau's public access line received reports of "alleged militia extremist activity" based out of Hopkins' home, including members "armed with AK-47 rifles and other firearms." Hopkins was identified as the commander of the group and his home served as its base.
In November 2017, two FBI special agents investigated Hopkins' home, where they say he invited them into his "office," where the agents observed about 10 firearms "leaning against a wall in a closet in plain view." Hopkins also told the agents there were other weapons in the home, including a shotgun and two handguns.
Hopkins was previously convicted of possession of a loaded firearm, felony possession and criminal impersonation of a peace officer.