(CNN) — A leader of an armed militia that detained hundreds of immigrants on the southern border of the United States said the group was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, according to court documents released Monday.
FBI agents visited Larry Mitchell Hopkins’ residence in Flora Vista, New Mexico, in November 2017 after learning of the alleged statement. Witnesses also reported seeing members of the militia with firearms in the home, the probable cause statement said.
The FBI recovered nine weapons and ammunition during the search, according to court documents.
Hopkins, 69, also known as Johnny Horton Jr., was charged Monday with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition derived from the 2017 search, according to a criminal complaint.
Hopkins, who was arrested Saturday, made his first court appearance Monday in federal court in Las Cruces.
The leader of the United Constitutional Patriots was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he had previously been convicted of at least three serious crimes, including the criminal impersonation of a peace officer in Oregon in 2006, according to the complaint.
The United States Attorney’s Office declined to say why Hopkins was charged more than a year after his residence was recorded.
Hopkins’ attorney, Kelly O’Connell, told reporters outside the New Mexico courthouse that his client has pleaded not guilty, according to CNN affiliate KTSM.
O’Connell said the guns and ammunition did not belong to Hopkins.
“Based on the charges I read, this is not about what’s going on here,” O’Connell said, referring to the militia’s presence on the border.
The court document also details what witnesses alleged about Hopkins and the military when they contacted the FBI.
Reports to an FBI line in October 2017 indicated “extremist militia activity” in Flora Vista, according to a probable cause statement by an FBI agent.
Hopkins was identified as the group’s commander and his home was their “base,” according to court documents.
According to court documents, witnesses said they saw about 20 members of the militia “armed with AK-47 rifles and other firearms” at the Hopkins residence.
“Hopkins also allegedly made the statement that the United States Constitutional Patriots were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, due to the support of these individuals for Antifa,” according to court documents.
Soros is a billionaire investor and philanthropist.
Court documents do not indicate when Hopkins allegedly made the statement.
The armed group was reported to have detained immigrants near Sunland Park, New Mexico, federal prosecutors said.
Last week, videos posted online allegedly showed immigrants being held by the military before being turned over to the US Border Patrol. In the pictures, people can be seen wearing full military uniforms with pistols strapped to their sides, gloves, and black masks.
The images have prompted a condemnation from the New Mexico Civil Liberties Union, which in a letter compared the actions of the militia to the kidnapping.
A spokesman for the group previously said their actions were legal, “likening the detention of immigrants to ‘a citizen’s arrest,'” according to a report in The New York Times.
Jim Benvie, the spokesman, told the Albuquerque Journal on Monday that the members of the military are “just a bunch of volunteer patriots, veterans in law enforcement.”
Hopkins was unarmed while living in the camp near the border fence, he told the newspaper. “He didn’t have a gun. He didn’t bring a gun. Johnny didn’t bring a gun,” he said.
Hopkins is a “Vietnam veteran who was cooking for the people in the camp. He was a victim,” Benvie told the newspaper.
O’Connell told reporters that the group believes they are “helping to enforce US immigration laws.”
Hopkins faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail if convicted. He will remain in custody while he awaits a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 29.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Catherine Shoichet, and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.
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Militia leader on southern border said he planned to assassinate Obama and Clinton