Babeu's Reckless and Threatening Behavior Have Enmeshed Him in a Career-Ending Scandal

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The most serious allegation in the broadcast report involves an inappropriate relationship Babeu allegedly had with a 17-year-old male student at the school. The sheriff immediately denied the allegations, and his lawyer produced a letter signed by the student in question also denying the allegation. The TV station reported that several witnesses back up the claim, including Babeu's sister, Lucy, who was interviewed on camera.

Babeu handpicked state Attorney General Tom Horne, a political ally whom Babeu endorsed for AG, to handle one of the investigations into the Orozco matter, which Horne handed off to his flunky, Arizona Solicitor General Dave Cole, a political appointee of the AG's.

The Public Integrity Task force — part of the state Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council, made up of Arizona county prosecutors and the AG — is handling the other at the behest of Pinal County Attorney Jim Wash.

In addition, local immigrant advocacy group Respect/Respeto has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to probe the abuse-of-power allegations made by Orozco and his attorney, Melissa Weiss-Riner — who referenced a verbal threat by DeRose in a September 30 letter to Babeu's attorney in which she denied his allegation that Orozco is in the country illegally.

Orozco and Weiss-Riner say DeRose and Babeu attempted to use the allegation as leverage to get Orozco to sign the non-disclosure agreement to keep Babeu's homosexuality hush-hush.

A September 4 text from Babeu to Orozco adds credence to Orozco and Weiss-Riner's threat allegations: "You can never have business after this and you will harm me and many others in the process, including yourself & your family."

In another text, Babeu told Orozco, "You have crossed the line. Better get an attorney. You brother will also be contacted."

Babeu unwisely mixed business with pleasure, using Orozco as a "volunteer" website administrator. When the relationship ended, Orozco posted links to negative stories, and in one instance to, on a campaign web page.

On September 6, DeRose hit Orozco with a cease-and-desist letter threatening civil and criminal action against Orozco. The Mexican national promptly complied — but this didn't stop DeRose and Babeu from continuing their pursuit.

In an e-mail to Orozco sent on September 7, DeRose invited Orozco "to come to my office and settle these outstanding claims."

Yet the only thing left to discuss was the non-disclosure agreement aimed at keeping Orozco mum about Babeu's homosexuality. Orozco's lawyer advised DeRose in writing that her client wouldn't sign any such agreement with Babeu.

Out of fear of the powerful sheriff and his lawyer, Orozco moved to a new address. But Babeu discovered his whereabouts, sending him a Christmas card, even though he'd promised no more contact with his ex.

It was this fear that drove Orozco to contact New Times. Though he and his attorney say he's in the country legally, he may have had reason to believe he could be removed by immigration authorities.

According to immigration law, Orozco's renewable visa comes with restrictions: He was prohibited from setting up residence in the United States, he could not work or run a business here, and he had to go back to Mexico after six months.

Details of Orozco's immigration status are murky. Weiss-Riner didn't respond to my request to discuss Orozco's visa, which she had told Alonzo she had on file.

But according to Phoenix immigration lawyer Delia Salvatierra, Orozco's working, living, and running a website business here could subject him to removal.

Even if Orozco left the country every six months to renew his visa, Salvatierra said, this would be "a violation of the non-immigrant intent of a non-immigrant visa" because he would be residing in the United States instead of his home country.

This opens up Babeu to various possible violations of election, immigration, and employment law.

According to Orozco, Babeu promised to compensate him for his webmaster and social-media work. And DeRose has admitted there were small reimbursements to Orozco.

Moreover, Orozco, as a non-citizen and non-resident, cannot donate to a campaign, either with an in-kind contribution of his labor or in actual money. The sheriff has not reported any such in-kind contributions from his erstwhile boyfriend. Babeu did, however, report a $40 contribution from Orozco to his 2008 campaign.

If this constituted a contribution from an undocumented alien, Babeu violated the law. At the least, Orozco was someone of questionable status.

It's painfully ironic that Babeu, a supporter of harsh anti-immigration laws, would become entangled in this legal morass.

Julie Pace, an immigration attorney who advises companies on complying with Arizona's employer-sanctions law, said she doesn't know of any exception to the law's requirement that employers check an applicant's Social Security number through the federal government's E-Verify system.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons