The leader of an armed militia group at the U.S. -Mexico border allegedly told the Federal Bureau of Investigation of his plans to assassinate billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, former President Barack Obama, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In an affidavit, David S. Gabriel, an FBI special agent, said the bureau was made aware of the activities of Hopkins after receiving reports in October 2017 of "alleged militia extremist activity" in northwestern New Mexico.
Hopkins, who's also known as Johnny Horton Jr., appeared Monday in a Las Cruces courtroom.
According to the criminal complaint, "Witnesses (in 2017) reported seeing members of the United Constitutional Patriots bearing firearms at Hopkins' residence".
Hopkins and his group have been criticized by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for detaining immigrants and handing them over to the US Border Patrol, comparing the practice to kidnapping. Militia members argue that they were assisting authorities to patrol remote areas of the border and carrying out "verbal citizen's arrests".
His attorney, Kelly O'Connell, a former conservative radio host in New Mexico, questioned the timing of the charges against his client.
The man, arrested earlier in April on charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, reportedly told witnesses in 2017 that UCP was training to conduct the assassinations, according to court papers. Hopkins has three felony convictions, including possessing a loaded firearm in MI in 1996, being a felon in possession of a firearm in OR and "impersonating a peace officer" in OR in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Kraehe is leading the prosecution of the case, according to a written statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque.
"We can not allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum", the ACLU said in a letter to New Mexico Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Hector Balderas.
The federal agency said it had information at the time that that 20-member group was armed with weapons, including AK-47 rifles.
On Friday, the governor called the militia's actions "absolutely unacceptable". The report states that Hopkins was seen at a gas station in Keno, Oregon, near the California border, showing firearms to a group of children and telling them that he was a police officer. "Hopkins had several military or law enforcement style pins all over his shirt in a uniform appearance".
Hopkins' previous felony convictions would make possession of firearms illegal.
"This is a risky felon who should not have weapons around children and families", Balderas, the state attorney general, said in a statement after Hopkins's arrest.
The group's "actions undermine the legitimate efforts of our state's law enforcement officials to keep New Mexico families safe and they erode community trust", the letter reads.
Lujan Grisham and Balderas have both spoken out against the militia's groups tactics. And they've been stopping migrant families that they're encountering crossing the border who are trying to come into the U.S.to claim asylum.
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department, in a statement issued Saturday, expressed "profound concern at the activities of intimidation and extortion of migrants on the part of militia groups on the border of New Mexico".
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This is why they are able to potentially cause so much harm, and why they are such a possibly lucrative target for attacks. Manufacturers are also focussed on keeping costs down in order to attract consumers, and security is not cheap.