Larry Mitchell Hopkins, of the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) group, was assaulted in a New Mexico jail on April 23. UCP is the civilian border security group making headlines in New Mexico after they vowed to actively help stop the tide of illegals pouring into the country. Hopkins had been arrested on Saturday by FBI agents on charges that he illegally possessed firearms in 2017. He was assaulted while in custody at the Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces in southern New Mexico. County spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said in an emailed statement that he was taken from the jail to the hospital by U.S. Marshalls, where he was treated for broken ribs, among other injuries.
Hopkins and the UCP group raised the eyebrows of many, and the ire of New Mexico officials, by going to the border and stopping those trying to cross. Working along a five-mile stretch in New Mexico near the Texas line, his group claims to have detained close to 6,000 people attempting to cross illegally. Their activities have provoked a range of reactions from New Mexico authorities, however, and none of them good.
Fake News Spread By New Mexico AG
Both Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), and Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) denigrated Hopkins and his group. After the apprehension, Balderas said “[t]oday’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, no armed vigilantes.” One problem there is that Hopkins wasn’t arrested for border activities – or was he? You might be confused by statements like that of AG Balderas or the many headlines, including this one by Reuters, declaring “Leader of armed group arrested for stopping migrants.”
The thing is, the UCP and many of their supporters think the Reuters headline is truer than they know. Why? The charges themselves are weak, old, and unlikely to have been brought at all if Mr. Hopkins didn’t make hay over the border. To make matters more complicated, Hopkins himself is a convicted felon with a history that includes impersonating a police officer.
Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
The current arrest is on federal charges that Mr. Hopkins was in possession of firearms, and illegally so, due to his felon status. The FBI went to his residence in 2017 “after the F.B.I. received reports that his group was ‘training’ to assassinate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros, according to documents unsealed Monday in federal court.” He let them search the place, and in the room he referred to his office, they saw many guns. The New York Times reports:
“Mr. Hopkins, who has also used the name Johnny Horton Jr., told the agents that the guns belonged to Fay Sanders Murphy, whom he described to agents as his common-law wife, according to the affidavit. The agents collected at least nine firearms from the home as evidence, including a 12-gauge shotgun and various handguns.”
To prove Hopkins violated the law, authorities would need to prove that the guns were possessed by Mr. Hopkins and not Ms. Murphy. Unless authorities have spent the long time since the search until now building their case for a gun charge on Hopkins, this arrest bears the stink of reprisal for his political activity. His lawyer, Kelly O’Connell, made just such a claim when she said:
“The main takeaway is this was not about anything down at the border. If it was a very serious charge worthy of prosecution and incarceration, why not jump on it immediately?”
A Liar Can Tell the Truth Too
Hopkins has a colorful history, to say the least. He calls himself by an alias, “John Horton,” the National Commander of the UCP. He is a felon, and certainly blurs the line between direct action and impermissibly assuming governmental authority and functions. He has impersonated the police before. If that is what he has done wrong, let him be charged for it and allowed to make a defense. If, however, he is a reminder of an inconvenient truth at the border and they are using whatever they can to get him to stand down, that puts the authorities in the wrong, not Mr. Hopkins.
Finally, Hopkins needs to be placed in protective custody after he is released from the hospital and the authorities responsible for his safety need to be held accountable. Mr. Hopkins is a 69-year-old man, unlikely to be able to defend himself against young inmates. If those inmates happen to be members of Mexican prison gangs … well, you don’t need a Ph.D. in criminology to see that the threat to his life is palpable. This assault took place in county jail, but federal facilities may not be any safer – at least as long as the wardens in charge of those imprisoned face no consequences for the violence they allow.
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