Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the recently arrested leader of the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) border militia, was allegedly attacked in jail, according to several reports.
“Hopkins was given medical attention for non life-threatening injuries,” Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Kelly Jameson told several outlets. “He was transferred out of the Doña Ana County Detention Center under the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service on Tuesday.”
The county’s detention center referred to Hopkins as “the alleged victim” of an attack, Reuters reported. And in a Facebook video posted Tuesday, Jim Benvie, a spokesperson of sorts for UCP, said he’d heard that Hopkins was attacked by a group of people.
“Apparently they put him in a pod cell with a group of people and they had just got done watching the article about the ACLU writing about him being racist, and as a result of that, he was attacked inside the cell, he was beat up pretty good, and he was sent to the hospital,” Benvie said. (UCP went viral after the ACLU of New Mexico wrote a letter to state officials describing UCP as an “armed fascist militia organization” and “racist and armed vigilantes.”)
But during a phone interview with TPM Wednesday, Kelly O’Connell, who said he’d been retained as Hopkins’ lawyer, disputed parts of that story.
“I was originally told that he was taken to the hospital, but he was actually treated inside the jail,” O’Connell said. “Now, what kind of a treatment center they have in that jail, I really don’t know, but honestly, it’s kind of a bare-bones jail. Maybe they came to the conclusion that he wasn’t injured that badly.”
O’Connell said that while he initially “was told” by a friend of Hopkins’ that he had broken ribs, O’Connell hadn’t been able to confirm as much.
He also said Hopkins’ transfer out of the jail by the U.S. Marshals might have been due to an upcoming hearing on April 29th.
“It would make sense if they moved him up there” near his hearing location in Albuquerque, O’Connell said. “He could be in Otero county. He could be in El Paso, they have a big jail down there [where] they do take, ironically, a lot of un-papered people to that, so…”
“I believe that part of it was that he was attacked and they didn’t think he was safe here, I just would have to assume that, you know?” O’Connell, a former conservative radio host, added.
The UCP earned a wave of backlash after videos they posted online showed them falsely identifying themselves as federal agents to migrants and asylum seekers who’d crossed the border.
After Hopkins’ arrest, the FBI said in an affidavit that in 2017 they’d learned Hopkins “allegedly made the statement that the United Constitutional Patriots were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, because of these individuals’ support of Antifa.”
O’Connell told The New York Times that Hopkins had denied saying as much.
On Tuesday, members of the militia were evicted from the piece of Union Pacific railroad land they’d been using as a campsite, just steps from the U.S.-Mexico border.
In his video Tuesday, Benvie disputed the characterization of UCP as a militia. He said from now on the group would ditch their rifles and military attire in favor of concealed handguns and “civilian” clothing.
“We are no longer going to be carrying long arms, we are no longer going to dressed in camouflage, because apparently that makes you a militia, if you do that,” he said.