AG Horne, Pima Att'y LaWall to look into Babeu deportation allegations
Pinal sheriff accused ex-lover of identity theft, hacking; Pinal County att'y to refer case
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who was accused by a former lover of threatening to deport him, called Tuesday for authorities to investigate those allegations, and Babeu's claims that the man committed crimes against him.
After authorities in neighboring Gila County declined to take up the case, Babeu turned to Attorney General Tom Horne, asking him to investigate.
Meanwhile, the Pinal County attorney said he will refer the case to the Public Integrity Task Force of a statewide group of prosecutors.
Babeu allegedly threatened to have his former lover — a Mexican citizen whom multiple sources have identified as Jose Orozco of Chandler — deported.
Orozco, who spoke anonymously to the Phoenix New Times, told the alternative weekly that the sheriff threatened to have him deported after the two had a falling out.
Babeu, who acknowledged that he is gay after Orozco's allegations became public, said his ex had been a campaign volunteer who hacked into various campaign websites. He accused the man — who he has referred to only as "Jose," as did the New Times — of posting defamatory statements on his website, Twitter account, and of unauthorized access to his campaign fundraising site. Babeu accused Orozco of "identity theft" and "serious crimes."
Until Tuesday, Babeu apparently had not officially reported his allegations to any law enforcement agency.
Bypassing Pinal County Attorney James Walsh, Babeu asked Sheriff John Armor and County Attorney Daisy Flores of neighboring Gila County to "conduct a joint comprehensive investigation."
Babeu is a Republican who is seeking the GOP nomination in the 4th Congressional District. Armor is a Democrat, and Flores is a Republican. Walsh, no political friend of Babeu's, is a Democrat.
The Gila County authorities told Babeu they don't have the resources to investigate, said Pinal County Sheriff's Department spokesman Tim Gaffney.
Babeu then asked state Attorney General Tom Horne to look into the case, Gaffney said.
"I feel that he and his staff will conduct this comprehensive investigation into all allegations made against me and my office, as well as possible crimes committed against me," Babeu said in a press release.
Walsh will refer the case to the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council, a body that includes the attorney general, Walsh's spokesman said in an interview Tuesday.
"For reasons of transparency, and to avoid any conflicts of interest," the Pinal County attorney will ask the statewide group to look into all of the allegations made in the case, said Kostas Kalaitzidis.
APAAC's Public Integrity Task Force has "a procedure to address this situation," Walsh said in a press release. Democratic Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, the chair of the group's Southern Arizona subcommittee, agreed to review the case, he said.
"It would constitute an actual or apparent conflict of interest for me or my office to conduct any investigation" because the county attorney is the lawyer for Babeu's department, Walsh said.
"The Task Force was created in 1992 to 'provide a forum to which elected prosecuting attorneys could refer and request review of allegations of breach of public trust' by elected public officials. This task force was created to ensure an impartial, decision-making process," Walsh said.
Babeu had asked the Gila County authorities to investigate "recent allegations made publicly against me and my office including possible crimes committed against me personally."
"I request that your investigation look into allegations of human rights violations, threatening and intimidating, misuse of public resources, theft of property, theft of identity, fraud and impersonation," Babeu wrote in a letter to Armor and Flores.
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.
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."
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, whom she alleged had repeated the threats.
DeRose denied the allegations.
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.
Babeu acknowledged having a relationship with "Jose" for about three years. Babeu said he had no reason to believe Orozco was in the country illegally.
In a Monday interview with CNN, speaking with his face and voice obscured, "Jose" said he was in the United States on a 10-year tourist visa that allows for multiple entries.
Such a visa does not allow a holder to remain in the country for more than six months at a time, and does not permit work in the United States.
Arizona Corporation Commission records show that a Jose Orozco of Chandler formed a limited liability company for a website business last year. That LLC was dissolved last month.
Babeu has said that "Jose" was strictly an unpaid volunteer on his campaign. Campaign finance records show no payment to Orozco through the end of 2011.
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."
Rumors that Babeu is gay have been circulating 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.