Sheriff Paul Babeu: I was the victim of a crime

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

For the first time since the scandal broke, we hear from and see both the accused and the accuser: Pinal County Sheriff and current US congressional candidate Paul Babeu, and Jose Orozco, the ex-lover who says the sheriff threatened to deport him after they broke up.

Both men are speaking as Babeu's Republican challengers for Congress turn up the heat and county officials debate whether a special investigation into Babeu is warranted. Babeu is defending himself aggressively.

I spoke to him one-on-one Monday about the private relationship that started this and the ugly and public turn it has taken.

“There was no threat,” Babeu said. “There wasn't even lawful action.  That's the only authority I have.”

A first-term sheriff and candidate for a seat in Congress, Babeu is on the offensive.  He said he did everything right, using an attorney to write letters, telling Jose Orozco, a former boyfriend and campaign volunteer, to stop accessing and posting to his campaign website, as well as his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“This was my property,” Babeu said.  “Crimes were committed against me.  Not against him.  And this is what we call evidence in law enforcement.”

Orozco never said he was threatened by the exchange of letters.  Yet he showed CNN a text message allegedly from Babeu saying, “You can never have business after this and you will harm me and many others in the process including yourself and your family."

Babeu said he wasn't threatening, but simply stating Orozco's Web business would be in jeopardy.

“We've all had bad relationships. Do you think this is where this anger started?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” Babeu responded.  “There was a personal relationship… and he wanted, some form of revenge here.”

Babeu finds the timing of this issue suspicious. Because of Orozco's allegations and the Phoenix News Times article, his Republican base and the world now know he is gay.

“It sounds like bigger things are at play,” I said.  “They certainly are in your career, but you suspect other people are pushing the buttons in this operation?”

“People have tried to use this as a threat against me for some time,” Babeu said.  “I'm not motivated by fear or negativity. I'm motivated by the opportunity to serve.”

I asked if he thought he could win the primary in the Republican race in light of the recent allegations and revelations.

“Absolutely,” Babeu responded.  “For me, not only on my record as a sheriff, my record in the military, but the fact that I stood up, and I'm not backing away from anything I've done, because I have a record of performance.”

Babeu’s attorney said Monday the campaign gained has more contributors since this story broke.