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NM militia leader pleads guilty to federal firearms charge, faces 10 years

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

The leader of a group of armed volunteer border patrollers who camped near the Mexican border last year has pleaded guilty in federal court to a firearms charge and faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

Flora Vista resident Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 70, also known as Johnny Horton Jr., pleaded guilty on Jan. 2 in Albuquerque federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Hopkins was arrested on April 20 by the FBI and Sunland Park police then indicted on April 24, according to The Daily Times archives.

The defendant identified himself as the national commander of the United Constitutional Patriots, an armed group which detained undocumented immigrants crossing into the United States.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas described Hopkins in a statement as a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around families and children and United Constitutional Patriots as armed vigilantes.

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Hopkins’ arrest was not tied to his activities of leading the militia, which patrolled the U.S. – Mexico border in Sunland Park last year. He was accused of possessing ammunition and firearms in San Juan County in November 2017 as a convicted felon.

The criminal complaint stated the FBI received a report in October 2017 of alleged militia extremist activity in Flora Vista, stating members of the United Constitutional Patriots were spotted bearing firearms at Hopkins’ residence.

The defendant had invited two FBI agents into his Flora Vista residence in November 2017 and showed the agents at least nine weapons and ammunition.

He claimed the weapons belonged to a woman he described as his common law wife but then later referred to one of the firearms as his, according to court documents.

Hopkins initially pleaded not guilty in the case during an April 29 hearing. The Albuquerque federal courthouse was evacuated ahead of Hopkins’ detention hearing that day.

Hopkins admitted in the plea agreement to possessing on or around Nov. 28, 2017, nine firearms including a shotgun, rifles and handguns along with ammunition including shotgun shells.

Four criminal convictions for Hopkins are identified in the plea agreement. They include a November 1996 conviction in Michigan for possession of a loaded firearm, a December 2006 conviction in Oregon for possession of a weapon-firearm and criminal impersonation of a peace officer and an April 2011 federal conviction for failure to pay legal child support.

The defendant is being held in custody as he awaits sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

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