Sheriff Paul Babeu


Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

Denying allegations that he abused his power by threatening to deport an ex-lover, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has requested an independent investigation, which will be led by Attorney General Tom Horne.

Horne said on Tuesday he is investigating the claims against the sheriff at Babue's request.

Many called for an investigation after a Phoenix tabloid not only outed Babeu as being gay last week, but also accused him of making threats to have an ex-lover deported if he spoke of the affair.

While the article claimed the ex-lover is an illegal immigrant, documents show he is in the country on a 10-year tourist visa. The alleged victim has been identified as Jose Orozco.

The investigation will go before the Public Integrity Task Force, a team of prosecuting attorneys comprised of prosecutors from Cochise, Gila, Greenlee, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties. Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall will also be participating.

In a Feb. 18 press conference, Babeu addressed the allegations.

"All these allegations that were in one of these newspapers are absolutely and completely false, except for the issues that refers to me as being gay. That is the truth. I am gay," he said. "It's almost as if this is a relief today."

After Pinal County officials said they didn't have the resources to investigate the allegations, Horne agreed to step in.

"The buck stopped with me," he said. "I am the chief law enforcement official of the state."

Because Horne and Babeu have campaigned together, the Attorney General said someone inside his office would lead the investigation.

The Phoenix tabloid also printed photos of Babeu from a dating website. One showed the Pinal County Sheriff from the waist up looking into a mirror. The second photo showed Babue looking into a mirror with only his underwear.

Besides accusations of threatening the alleged victim, some have questioned whether or not Babeu misused his power as a law enforcement official.

"The individual that we are talking about, Jose, there was a relationship," Babeu said. "Apart from that, he was a volunteer for my political campaign. He was in charge of our website and social media of Twitter and financial transactional system. When that relationship ended, he then took control of those items, the social media and website and started posting information that was not complimentary. This idea of deportation was never an issue. I don't have the authority to deport anybody. There was no law enforcement action here at all."

Babeu said his attorney contacted Jose to get the passwords in September of last year, while noting that there was no contact with the Mexican immigrant beyond that.

"This whole rumor, this whole idea about who I am in my private life has been shopped around," he said. "This was a hook on how this could be brought out. To attack a sheriff who stands by conservative principles, who does enforce the law."

No matter what the outcome of the investigation, Babeu's political prospects took a hit last week.

Babeu is currently running in the highly-conservative Congressional District 4.

In polls taken in late January, Babeu led Republican opponents. According to one poll, Republican voters favored Babue by 31 percent, while Paul Gosar trailed at 23 percent and Ron Gould had 19 percent.

Babeu was also leading his primary opponents in fundraising.

Now, the future is unknown for the Republican Sheriff who faces multiple accusations that he denies, admitted to being gay and is running in one of the state's most conservative districts.



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