Sheriff Babeu admits he's gay, denies threatening ex with deportation

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by Crystal Cruz, Marceline Luganob and Mike Gertzman

Video report by Crystal Cruz

Posted on February 18, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:12 AM

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. -- Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is denying allegations published in the Phoenix New Times weekly paper that he threatened a former boyfriend with deportation if he told anyone about their relationship .

“I’m here to say that all these allegations that were in one of these newspapers are absolutely false, except for the issues that refer to me as being gay,” Babeu said Saturday at a news conference in front of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

Backed by a wall of supporters, Babeu shared explicit details about his personal life.

“That's the truth -- I am gay,” Babeu said.

For the first time the sheriff is opening up publicly about his sexual orientation.

“It's very difficult and liberating at the same time,” the sheriff said.

Babeu is under fire for posting half nude photos of himself online on dating website.

“These were photographs that are mine, that I sent to an individual that was meant only for their observation,” Babeu said.

The racy photos surfaced Friday when the “Phoenix New Time,” featured Babeu’s ex-boyfriend.

The man, identified only as Jose, told the online magazine Babeu threatened to deport him back to Mexico if he went public about their relationship.

“That is blatantly false. It's not true,” Babeu said Saturday afternoon.

The allegations are stunning for a sheriff who stands against illegal immigration and wants to better secure our border.

According to Jose's attorney, the 34-year-old "continues to live in fear."

During the Saturday news conference, however, Babeu said he has no authority to deport anyone.

Over the phone Saturday, Melissa Weiss-Riner with the Horan Law Offices confirmed she's representing Jose but would not speak to 3TV on-camera or share Jose's last name or his legal status.

Weiss-Riner sent us a statement late Saturday that said, "Jose retained our law firm after he was contacted by Sheriff Babeu's attorney, because he felt intimidated and needed someone to help protect his rights. As a campaign volunteer, our client created and maintained several websites and accounts at Sheriff Paul Babeu's request.  The websites and accounts were created and maintained for Sheriff Babeu from approximately 2008 through late 2011."

Joses attorney would not comment on her client's legal status.

“I never believed he was less legal than you or I were,” Babeu said.

Babeu accuses his ex-boyfriend of hacking into his campaign websites after his services were no longer needed and stealing his ID.

Sheriff Babeu's attorney, Christopher DeRose, released a statement that says, in part, "The allegations referred to an incident that occurred on Sept. 6, 2011, when the campaign's website, Twitter account, and online financial transaction system were illegally hacked."

“He started posting information on there that was not complimentary,” said Babeu.

A  cease-and-desist letter was sent to the suspected perpetrator who promptly returned access to the campaign.

"This individual (Jose) was asked to sign an agreement refraining from similar activity in the future,  but at no time were any threats made. At that time, the individual's attorney assured the campaign that he was not interested in causing further trouble, which  was accepted as true," DeRose said.

"We strongly deny the sensationalist headline published by the Phoenix New Times," he continued.

Babeu said personal text messages posted by the “Phoenix New Times” are legitimate.

The top brass denied threatening his ex-boyfriend via text or using government-issued equipment to speak to him.

The sheriff said he will not resign even though he has stepped away from Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Also late Saturday, Shane Wikfors with the Arizona Republican Party said they have no comment.

Wikfors said the party wants to hear both sides of the story before commenting.

Jose's attorney said her client anticipates speaking sometime next week and has proof the sheriff threatened him.

Babeu, who began his law-enforcement career in Chandler and was elected sheriff of Pinal County in 2008, is a candidate in the Republican primary race in Arizona's new 4th Congressional District and has gained national attention for his outspoken stance on border-security.

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