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Babeu denies deportation claim, acknowledges he's gay

Pinal County sheriff resigns from Romney campaign amid allegations

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu acknowledged that he's gay Saturday, but denied allegations that he threatened to deport a Mexican man he'd had a relationship with if the man exposed their affair.

Babeu described the man who made the allegations as a jilted lover and former campaign volunteer who hacked into the sheriff's website. Babeu said he did not take any law enforcement action in the alleged hacking.

Babeu also resigned as an honorary co-chair of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign.

At a news conference Saturday, Babeu, who is running for Congress, acknowledged that he is gay but denied threatening to deport his ex-lover.

“I am here to say all of these allegations... are absolutely, completely false — except for the issues that refer to me as being gay. Because that's the truth. I am gay,” Babeu said.

"At no time did I, or anyone who represents me, ever threaten deportation — ever," Babeu said.

"This issue was the vehicle in which this could be brought out publicly," Babeu said, describing his outing as the "main issue why we're here."

"It's almost as if there's a relief today," Babeu said. Babeu said that his political opponents had threatened to make his sexuality public for years.

The Phoenix New Times reported Friday that the ex-boyfriend, who was identified only as Jose to prevent possible action from immigration authorities, provided photographs supporting the allegations that he and Babeu had a relationship and he was threatened.

On Saturday, the Phoenix New Times reported:

He denied the allegations made by the ex-boyfriend, and instead painted him as a jilted lover and former campaign volunteer who hacked into his website and other accounts.

In Friday's story, Jose told the newspaper that Babeu’s lawyer Charles DeRose had threatened to deport him if he didn't keep the affair a secret. DeRose denied the claim.

The New Times quoted Jose’s attorney, Melissa Weiss-Riner, as saying she had spoken to DeRose, who she alleged had repeated the threats.

DeRose denied the allegations.

Saturday, according to the New Times:

Babeu characterized the business dispute as ending after his attorney, Chris DeRose, demanded from Jose all the passwords to the accounts they say were hacked. However, letters provided to New Times detail continued exchanges between DeRose and Melissa Weiss-Riner.

Babeu told reporters Saturday that he'd taken no law enforcement action over the alleged hacking and what he termed "identity theft," although he described the actions as "crimes."

"There were legitimate crimes that were committed, and this is how I chose to deal with those," he said.

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Having his sexuality become public is "very difficult, but liberating at the same time," Babeu said Saturday. "I'm not going to live in fear."

Babeu did not identify the man, following the New Times' lead in referring to him only as "Jose."

Rumors that Babeu is gay have been common for years. The sheriff's political opponents have contacted reporters — including TucsonSentinel.com — offering information about his sexuality on numerous occasions.

It took the New Times report alleging an abuse of office by Babeu for his private life to make a news story.

Heinz voted for Babeu border funding

The New Times reported that Babeu spent the night at the home of Tucson legislator Matt Heinz a week after the Democratic state representative voted to give the sheriff $5 million to combat border violence:

Openly gay Tucson state Representative Matt Heinz was one of two Democratic lawmakers who broke ranks with the party in March 2011 and voted to give Babeu $5 million to combat border violence. Other lawmakers opposed the measure, in part, because Babeu's county is at least 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure finally was pared down to $1.7 million and passed by the Legislature.

About a week after Heinz's nod to Babeu, the sheriff spent the night at Heinz's home, text messages that Jose shared with New Times show.

Heinz, who is running for Congress in Southern Arizona's new CD2, did not respond to a Friday request for comment by TucsonSentinel.com.

Steps down from Romney campaign

Babeu also announced Saturday that he'd resigned from Romney's campaign.

"I called the Romney campaign, and I told him I'm going to step away from the campaign," Babeu said at the press conference. Babeu said he was told the campaign supported his decision.

In recent polls, Romney has held a significant lead in the state over his main rival Rick Santorum, despite trailing him nationally.

Babeu press conference

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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2 comments on this story

Feb 20, 2012, 12:02 am
-0 +3

I think Jose should be publicly identified. There’s being dragged in to something, and then there’s injecting yourself into a situation. Looks to me like Jose did the latter, so he deserves no protection of privacy.

As to Babeu being gay…meh, I really don’t care. It doesn’t change all the good work he’s done concerning shedding light on all the problems that have resulted from the feds’ apathy concerning enforcing our border and our immigration laws.

Feb 18, 2012, 8:09 pm
-7 +1

Is he gay, or is he a bully masquerading as gay? That is the question. I am inclined to believe the latter. Babeu loves fame, notoriety, and power. He will plainly exploit anything and anyone in furtherance of his first love-himself. He should not be trusted with public office.

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Pinal County Sheriff's Office

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu