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Paul Babeu, Pinal County Sheriff, Hosts Press Conference to Address New Times Story. Admits He's Gay and Says He Quit the Mitt Romney Campaign

Sheriff Paul Babeu addresses members of the media, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012.
Sheriff Paul Babeu addresses members of the media, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012.
Photo by Jamie Peachey

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu just announced at a press conference that he is a gay man and that he is no longer a part of presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign.

"I called the Romney campaign, and I told him I'm going to step away from the campaign," Babeu told a crowd of reporters. He says the campaign told him: "We support your decision, sheriff."

Babeu was serving as the Arizona co-chair of the Mitt Romney for President campaign.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said, "Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him. We support his decision," the Huffington Post reported.

Babeu called the press conference a day after New Times broke the story about allegations from the sheriff's former boyfriend that Babeu's attorney threatened him with deportation after he refused to sign an agreement promising not to disclose details of their relationship.

See additional photos from Saturday's press conference as well as additional images obtained from Sheriff Babeu's ex-lover allegedly showing text message communication between the two.

The sheriff and congressional candidate said his personal life was none of anyone's business, and said a couple times during the press conference that it was "almost a relief" for his orientation to be out in the open.

He denied the allegations made by the ex-boyfriend, and instead painted him as a jilted lover and former campaign volunteer who hacked into his website and other accounts.

Babeu characterized the business dispute as ending after his attorney, Chris DeRose, demanded from Jose all the passwords to the accounts they say were hacked. However, letters provided to New Times detail continued exchanges between DeRose and Melissa Weiss-Riner.

If the matters were settled, and there were no further attempts to persuade Jose into silence, then why would DeRose continue contacting Weiss-Riner?

Weiss-Riner, who received the phone calls directly from DeRose, stands by her clients' allegations.

Babeu admitted to reporters that he did have a personal relationship with Jose, the man who reached out to New Times to share his story. And he also said he did not deny the veracity of the text messages or photos published by our publication.

In one series of texts Jose provided, the sheriff himself appears to be threatening his former lover:

Babeu: "You can never have business after this and you will harm me and many others in the process . . . including yourself & your family."

Babeu followed with: "And you say you have loved me? Papi . . . this is no good."

Jose responded: "Good threats. Wont work. Im already hurt me . . . and you didn't care."

Then later:

Jose: "Dont threat me. Thats illegal. Im just speaking . . . true."

Babeu: "You have crossed the line. Better get an attorney. You brother will also be contacted."

Soon after, DeRose sent an e-mail directly to Jose ordering him to "cease and desist."

Babeu contended during the press conference that his attorney was contacting Jose and Jose's lawyer about Jose's tampering with campaign websites, that there were never any threats about Jose's getting deported -- but Jose and Weiss-Riner dispute the sheriff's claim.


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