By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
The text messages — many still saved on Orozco's cell phone — appear to be sent from Babeu's business cell phone. Babeu identifies himself on his voice mail and says he is the sheriff of Pinal County. (Babeu since has denied that he sent explicit texts on his PCSO phone.)
In a phone conversation with Weiss-Riner on September 12, Orozco's attorney says, DeRose launched a series of attempts to keep Orozco from posting comments and to get him to sign a non-disclosure statement about the relationship. She says DeRose brought up Orozco's supposedly expired visa, possible deportation, and threatened a defamation lawsuit. She says DeRose mentioned that Orozco's comments were "embarrassing" for Babeu.
Weiss-Riner responded to DeRose in a September 30 letter: "I'm sure I don't need to remind you that truth is an absolute defense to any of these claims. Therefore, even if my client's alleged comments regarding Mr. Babeu were 'embarrassing,' as you state, they were in fact truth."
Orozco says he contacted New Times because he's had to turn his life upside down to stay out of Babeu's reach. Since the two parted ways, he says, he's moved twice, is looking for a new job, and has spent his life savings to hire Weiss-Riner to defend against a series of claims by the sheriff.
As for the ones related to the unpaid website work, Orozco thought everything was settled after turning over the passwords. The ex-lovers left it that they would discontinue contact with each other, Weiss-Riner says. But several weeks later, after Orozco moved into an apartment with roommates — leaving no forwarding address — a Christmas card arrived in his new mailbox from Babeu.
"It was [Babeu's] way of letting me know that he knew where I was," Orozco says.
Shortly after the card appeared, Orozco says, he angrily posted more anonymous comments online about Babeu's sexuality.
DeRose again flew into action, Weiss-Riner says, e-mailing her that Orozco wasn't living up to his and Babeu's no-contact agreement.
She responded to DeRose in a January 17 letter: "My client requested that your client discontinue any and all contact with him. You advised me that Mr. Babeu would comply with that request. However, your client violated that promise and sent [Orozco] a Christmas card at his new address. Clearly, your client has no intention of leaving [Orozco] alone, but instead intends to continue to harass and threaten him."
She also wrote that Babeu's continued "harassment and intimidation have caused [Orozco] to live in fear. [Orozco] has done nothing wrong; he has a right to live in peace without worrying about himself, his family, and his friends."
Weiss-Riner told DeRose that if Babeu didn't leave her client alone, she would seek an injunction against the sheriff to prevent further harassment.
She says she had no more contact with DeRose after that.
Paul Babeu's slick presence and conservative views — particularly on border control — have garnered him national popularity among the Tea Party element of the Republican party. He's frequently appeared on national Fox News broadcasts as a border hawk.
Babeu's presence on the national stage reached a new high in May 2010, when he was featured in U.S. Senator John McCain's "complete the danged fence" TV ad. Babeu's inclusion was meant to bolster the senator's credibility on border security during a heated Republican primary race against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth.
In the ad, McCain and Babeu are shown walking along a slatted steel fence delineating the U.S.-Mexico border. The longtime senator asks the first-term sheriff whether the McCain plan is the "right plan" for the border. Babeu says McCain's plan is "perfect." Then, he gives his political nod to McCain: "Senator, you're one of us."
When Babeu was elected sheriff in January 2009, he made sweeping changes in the Pinal County department, replacing its command staff, and according to the county's website, "implemented high employee standards."In January 2011, Babeu fired Pinal County Deputy Louie Puroll, who claimed he was ambushed in the desert by runners employed by a Mexican drug cartel (“Pinalcchio” and ”White Wash,” September 23 and November 25, 2010), saying the deputy violated several departmental rules.
Among them was that Puroll had "been abusive in attitude, language, behavior, or conduct" and that he "engaged in conduct, on- or off-duty, that is of such nature that it would tend to bring discredit to the county."
During the previous year, Orozco says, Babeu e-mailed explicit photographs of himself to an anonymous man he met on the gay adam4adam.com website.
Orozco knows this because he posed as this man after his suspicions resurfaced that Babeu was cheating on him.
He shared with New Times photographs that he says Babeu e-mailed to the anonymous love interest. In the photographs, the sheriff revealed himself shirtless, in his underwear, and naked from the waist down.
Attorney Antonio Bustamante said Babeu's alleged actions demonstrated bad judgment.
"To behave in a way that can threaten your own political career, it means that this person is a risk-taker," Bustamante says. The public "needs to know how far [politicians] are willing to go in taking risks."
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city