Sheriff Paul Babeu "Pleaded" With Ex-Boyfriend to Keep Silent About Relationship, AG's Investigators Reveal
See also: Babeu's Mexican Ex-Lover Says Sheriff's Attorney Threatened Him
See also: Demands Grow for Full Investigation into Allegations Against Babeu
See also: Paul Babeu and Ex-Boyfriend Jose Orozco Won't Be Charged With Crimes
The allegations first reported by New Times in February were explosive: Paul Babeu's ex-boyfriend claimed that -- after he refused to sign an agreement to keep quiet about his relationship with the sheriff -- Babeu and his attorney threatened him with deportation.
But was there a threat? Did Chris DeRose, Babeu's attorney, raise questions about the ex-boyfriend's immigration status to intimidate him into signing a non-disclosure contract?
That question has been at the crux of a story that lit a firestorm for the once-up-and-coming Republican and forced him to quit his Congressional campaign.
And, today, a seven-month investigation by the Arizona Attorney General's Office concluded that the answer was: "There is no indication that [Babeu] misused any authority or misused public money to harass or intimidate Jose Orozco" and that Ozoco's "allegations are not supported by the facts."
But it appears that DeRose told investigators a different story than he told the media.
"In the interview with Chris DeRose, he said that he wanted Jose Orozco to come to his office and sign a non-disclosure agreement," AG's investigators wrote.
While investigators say DeRose admitted that to them, he previously denied it to the media, according to published reports.
An Arizona Republic article on March 7, 2012 says, "DeRose denies ever having the Sept. 12 conversation and on Wednesday repeated his claim that he never asked Orozco to sign a non-disclosure contract."
DeRose is quoted in the Republic as saying: "The only thing I ever wanted him to sign was an agreement to refrain from further attacks on our website, Twitter, or online transaction systems. If you look at her first letter to me, [Orozco's then-lawyer Melissa Weis-Riner] says that Jose would not sign anything but would refrain from further attacks on the website. I took her at her word."
To other media outlets, too, DeRose said the "objective" wasn't to get Orozco to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
DeRose was quoted in the Los Angels Times in February 2012 as saying he was just trying "to prevent another hacking incident, and the only thing I ever asked for was an agreement to refrain from doing so in the future."
It's unclear which of DeRose's statements is accurate or why investigators didn't press the discrepancy.
As we previously reported, Orozco said the threats against him came after he started tweeting about Babeu's profile on a hook-up site for gay men -- and posting unflattering articles on the campaign website. He says that's when Babeu's campaign manager, DeRose, went after him.
Orozco eventually gave control of the accounts to Babeu. Orozco said DeRose then wanted him to sign a non-disclosure agreement, promising not to reveal his relationship with the sheriff.
When Orozco refused, he and his attorney, Weis-Riner, said DeRose brought up Orozco's alleged expired visa as incentive for him to sign.
While DeRose's story apparently changed when he talked to AG's investigators, Weis-Riner's has been consistent since she and Orozco first shared Jose's story with New Times.
She told investigators the same thing she told media outlets before the AG's office started its probe. She told them that after reaching a stalemate over Orozco's signing the non-disclosure agreement, DeRose said her client should be interested in signing the agreement.
The report says Weis-Riner continued to investigators that DeRose told her "it was his understanding" that Orozco was in the United States on an expired student visa. At that point, it became a heated conversation, she went on, sayng she told DeRose, "Are you kidding me? This is why you want my client to sign the agreement!"
She told investigators that DeRose said yes. She then related that she told DeRose it would be embarrassing for his client to make the allegations because Babeu takes such a strong stand on illegal immigration, and "now you are trying to tell me Jose Orozco is here illegally."
Investigaors say DeRose told them the conversation never took place.
Instead, he described his conversations -- those that he could remember -- with Weis-Riner as "pleasant." He said he didn't have any documentation or files on "the matter," investigators noted.
The AG's Office also tossed out Babeu's allegations that Orozco stole the sheriff's identity by hacking his website and social-media accounts -- finding that a Twitter account Babeu claimed Orozco hacked actually belonged to Orozco, who was also a campaign volunteer.
Investigators found that "no clear termination of [Orozco's] authority took place until after the conduct was an issue in this case. This makes it unlikely that the State can prove that the account was used 'without permission.' "
The investigation revealed that Babeu desperately wanted to stay in the closet as he made a run for Arizona's Fourth Congressional District seat.
On September 3, 2011, investigators say, Babeu "asked Orozco not to share their private relationship with anyone but [that] Orozco refused."
And when Orozco lashed out online, posting tidbits about Babeu's sexuality, the sheriff called him, at 2 a.m. the following day and "pleaded with him to stop," the report states.
Babeu was running for Congress in an uber-conservative Arizona district, and his opponents were touting their "family values" (code for an array of anti-gay platforms).
Horan Law Offices, the law firm representing Orozco, said in a statement that they are "pleased" Orozco was vindicated of "Sheriff Babeu's false accusations," and that Orozco is disappointed no charges were brought against Babeu.
They said that Orozco is "ready to move forward."
Although the full story of what actually happened between DeRose and Weis-Riner and Orozco and Babeu, probably will remain a mystery, Babeu declared today on Facebook: "The truth has won out in the end. I was attacked personally, professionally and politically with these false allegations and today I'm fully cleared."
He makes no mention of DeRose's getting quoted in the press telling one story, and then, later, telling investigators another.
Babeu says the attacks against him were political and meant to destroy him during election year. He pledged that he "shall not be silenced by your slander."
In a press release sent out by his office, he also wrote: "The fact that I'm gay doesn't matter."
And it doesn't.
Babeu didn't menion that he, as a Congressional candidate and sitting sheriff, took and sent naked and nearly naked photos of himself, that he posted a personal profile on a website for gay men seeking sexual encounters, and that he allowed a lover to control his political websites and social-media accounts.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.
- Ex-Arizona Lottery Director Tony Bouie Probed by State AG's Office
Thu., Feb. 18, 7:00pm
Fri., Feb. 19, 7:30pm
Fri., Feb. 19, 7:30pm
Fri., Feb. 19, 7:30pm
- This Lady Vows to Herd Felines at Amazing Acro-Cat Circus in Phoenix
- Satanists Scheduled to Give Invocation at Scottsdale City Council Meeting in April