Despite public pleas for pity, Sheriff Paul Babeu dwells now in a hell entirely of his own making, licked by self-stoked flames of hypocrisy and deceit.
To hear him tell it, you'd think Babeu was a martyr for gay liberation, wrongly outed as a homosexual by my colleague Monica Alonzo's February 17 report on the threats he and his lawyer/campaign adviser Chris DeRose allegedly made to the sheriff's Mexican ex-lover, Jose Orozco.
Specifically, these threats were that the 34-year-old man could be deported if he did not sign a non-disclosure agreement promising not to reveal his affair with the sheriff, according to Orozco and his attorney. This proposed swap of silence for sanctuary has exposed Babeu to two investigations involving his abuse of power as a high-ranking law enforcement official.
In reality, Babeu outed himself. Both as a gay man and as a political charlatan willing to say or do anything to get elected, going so far as to strong-arm his former lover into remaining quiet about the sheriff's sexual orientation.
At his February 18 press conference to deny some of the allegations raised by Alonzo's article, Babeu played the victim while admitting his orientation before a horde of journalists.
"This is 20-plus years that I've had numerous people [who] would threaten this to me, to expose me, go to my chain of command — even in the military — and have done so," he said.
"And so it's almost a relief today," he continued. "To be able to not be threatened. Because not only is that not fair to define people along those very personal, those very private, parts of who they are. That's how I've lived my life and defined myself."
Really? I thought Babeu defined himself as a TV-slick huckster of hate, a border hawk ever eager to scapegoat the undocumented as dangerous criminals and to scoff at any compassionate and common-sense solutions to their plight, earning him the praise of Tea Party backers.
Standing before the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Florence, his supporters and uniformed underlings standing behind him, Babeu depicted New Times' revelations as the product of his political enemies, a story meant to "malign and attack a sheriff who does stand for conservative principle, who does enforce the law."
Nice try, but Babeu didn't deny that as "studboi1" he'd been trolling for sex on the gay hookup site adam4adam.com, with a personal web page peppered with explicit male pornography, wherein he described himself as "out" and detailed the size and shape of his penis.
Anyone can access the site without paying, and on it Babeu posted a photo of himself bare-chested, displaying a distinctive tribal tattoo. Ironically, it was Orozco, Babeu's lover at the time, who warned the sheriff that he should delete the page for reasons that should be obvious to any public official, especially one intending to run for Congress in the ultra-right-wing 4th Congressional District.
Babeu did not heed his boyfriend's advice. Orozco said Babeu had similar pages on other sites. He and Babeu met through gay.com. And it was through adam4adam.com that Orozco says he caught Babeu cheating on him and engaging in even riskier behavior.
In 2010, the disgruntled Orozco contacted Babeu as "Matt" and began a days-long sexting correspondence via cell phone. The messages included graphic descriptions of various sex acts, and at one point, Babeu sent Matt a nude photo of himself with an erection.
Before sending the nude photo, Babeu explained to this unbeknownst-to-him fictional individual, that he was "in law enforcement," a sheriff.
"That's why I must be discrete [sic]," Babeu wrote.
But the Fox News darling and conservative icon hardly was discreet, and how could he not know that he was playing Russian roulette with his political career?
When Babeu showed up for his rendezvous with Matt at a Queen Creek bar — and realized that Matt was, in fact, his betrayed lover — he confessed to Orozco that he had worried "it was a reporter trying to catch me."
It certainly could have been. A half-nude photo on adam4adam.com of a man suspected of being Babeu would have been enough to tempt almost any reporter.
The media-savvy sheriff no doubt was familiar with the case of two New York congressmen, Chris Lee and Anthony Weiner, who in separate incidents last year were revealed to have sexted photos of their shirtless selves to women.
In Weiner's case, he also Tweeted a close-up of his underwear-swathed privates and texted explicit snapshots to would-be lovers. He engaged in texted sex talk, as well. Both he and Lee ended up resigning from their congressional seats.
Answering questions about the comparisons to Weiner, Babeu responded that he, unlike Weiner, is not married.
"Not only as a single guy, and as someone who lives very privately, all of [the photos and texts distributed were] blocked," Babeu contended to a Channel 12 reporter in the wake of the scandal. "It's like it was for the intent of whoever . . . I share my personal life with."