SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted on a weapons charge the leader of an armed group that has been detaining asylum-seeking families from Central America near the Mexican border, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday.
The indictment charges Larry Mitchell Hopkins with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, drawing on details of a 2017 visit by an FBI agent to Hopkins' home in northwestern New Mexico.
The indictment cites previous criminal convictions against the 69-year-old resident of Flora Vista for impersonation of a police officer and repeated firearms violations.
Hopkins was arrested April 20 in Sunland Park, New Mexico, near the U.S. border with Mexico where his group has been stopping migrants and ordering them to wait as they alerted Border Patrol.
Hopkins is scheduled for an arraignment Monday. Defense attorney Kelly O'Connell said Friday that Hopkins intends to dispute the charge from the grand jury.
O'Connell called into question the motivation and timing of a charge that is not linked to activities along the border, and said that Hopkins deserves to be released pending court proceedings because of his poor health.
"He's obviously not a flight risk to Mexico," the Las Cruces-based attorney said.
The indictment against Hopkins, made public on Friday, offers no new details about Hopkins and his involvement with an armed group called the United Constitutional Patriots, who say they want to draw attention to immigration violations and help federal law enforcement in patrolling the border.
The FBI has declined to comment on why it waited to bring charges against Hopkins following a search at his home in 2017. His arrest follows widespread criticism after videos surfaced of their members carrying firearms and detaining groups of immigrants crossing the border.
In 2017, Hopkins allegedly invited an FBI agent into his home and showed him at least nine weapons and ammunition. According to the complaint, he first told the agent that the weapons belonged to his live-in girlfriend, but he then referred to one of the weapons as his.
An earlier complaint filed in U.S. District Court maintains that Hopkins told members of the Patriots in 2017 that they "were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, because of these individuals support of Antifa," or anti-fascists.
If convicted on the charge in the indictment, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants arrive. Amid the current rise in people seeking asylum, a larger portion of migrants are children.