PHOENIX -- It's a story that is rippling through the state and its Republican Party -- accusations that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu threatened his ex-lover with deportation. Now the Phoenix New Times reporter who broke the story is speaking out about her article.
Award-winning writer Monica Alonzo told 3TV's Javier Soto that she believes Babeu and his lawyer are spinning the headline and that the seriousness of the matter could get lost.
"I think what we see happening here is the sheriff and his attorney trying to change the topic a little bit, trying to make the story about the fact that he's gay," Alonzo said.
At the center of the Alonzo's story is the allegation that Babeu threaten his ex, a 34-year-old man identified only as Jose, with deportation if he ever went public with their relationship.
"The allegations of these threats are … what we need to keep focus on," the writer said.
"I gather my facts and I verify them and then I present you with what we have found," Alonzo said, explaining the process of writing a story. "We made every effort to make sure we had the story nailed down before we ran with it."
In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Babeu categorically denied Jose's accusations.
"These allegations that were in one of these newspapers are absolutely and completely false …," he said.
He did, however, admit that he is gay.
Alonzo said that's not the point of her story.
"My impression is that they're trying to spin to make it about him being gay and having the right to be gay," Alonzo said. "That's not the crux of the story here.
"The fact is there are some allegations here," she continued. "You can't just say, 'Well, I deny it,' and that's it. ... There's things that indicate that there was something more to this than just a disgruntled ex-volunteer."
Alonzo said she started looking into the story when the man identified only as Jose reached out to The Phoenix New Times.
"As he says, he was tired of being intimidated and threatened by the sheriff and having this sort of loom over him," Alonzo explained. "He wanted, as he said to us, he wanted the sheriff to be held accountable for this."
Racy photos that have come out in connection with the story could damage Babeu's effort to win a seat in Congress representing Arizona's new 4th District.
"He's running in one of the most republican districts in the state, with some of the most conservative republicans in that district. It's going to be an uphill battle," said Marcus Dell'Artino from First Strategic, a public-relations, government and community affairs firm.
Many are wondering if we're looking at the story of a scorned ex-lover or a threatening sheriff.
Alonzo said her mind is made up after reading countless texts, emails and lawyers' correspondence. When asked if she stood by her story, she did not hesitate.
"Absolutely," she said. "Without a doubt. Without a doubt."
Alonzo said she will be doing a follow-up story in the next issue of The Phoenix New Times.
"The outstanding issues are what happens next?" she said. "Who's going to investigate? Is anybody going to be investigated?"
Babeu has not said anything else about the story and Jose's allegations since his news conference Saturday afternoon.
The one person we have not heard from yet is Jose. His attorney said he plans to hold a news conference later this week.