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

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"Any employer who hires anybody and pays [him] money, whether [he's] full time or part time, has to complete I-9 forms and is supposed to get registered for E-Verify according to the Legal Arizona Workers Act," Pace told me.

In DeRose's cease-and-desist letter, he threatens to sue Orozco for "breach of contract," though he has not responded to a request from Orozco's lawyer for the details of that contract.

Even if Babeu didn't violate the employer-sanctions law, he would have been in violation of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which calls for officers having "reasonable suspicion" of someone's illegal presence to examine that person's papers.

Portions of the law have been stymied in federal court, but Babeu has been a vocal supporter of 1070. He mercilessly has criticized the Obama administration for suing Arizona over the statute.

When asked whether he suspected Orozco is illegal, Pinal County's top cop essentially admitted to turning a blind eye to the situation.

"I never believed [Orozco] was less legal than I or you were," Babeu stated to reporters during his press conference.

Isabel Garcia, an immigration activist and head of the Pima County Legal Defender's Office, sneered at the notion that the anti-immigrant sheriff would be so incurious.

"I bet anyone with an accent like Jose's would have been presumed undocumented by him as the sheriff and as the political persona he created," she said.

"So, in his personal life," she scoffed, the sheriff wants the public to believe "he assumed his boyfriend is legal?"

Indeed, anyone who saw Orozco's CNN interview, in which he struggled to express himself in English, would doubt Babeu's claim, considering his nativist views.

"How dare he portray himself as a victim," Garcia exclaimed. "It's clear who's the cop and who's got the badge."

Babeu has accused Orozco of identity theft and of website hacking.

Orozco never tried to pass himself off as Babeu, though he did post unflattering messages on Twitter accounts and websites that Orozco had registered on the sheriff's behalf.

And Orozco didn't have to hack into Babeu's sites. Even Babeu admits that he had authorized Orozco to handle his campaign sites and social media. DeRose's cease-and-desist letter demanded that Orozco turn over all passwords, as well as control of Babeu's fundraising software, which he did.

Arizona State University Professor Robert Clinton, who teaches classes on cyber-law, explains that the onus is on employers to maintain copies of passwords and to block a fired employee's access.

"If he had been terminated or otherwise let go, or the relationship had ended," Clinton said of Orozco, "then it was the sheriff's obligation to get the passwords changed. Sounds like he didn't."

Based on my description of the details, Clinton doubted that Orozco could face criminal penalties under existing cyber-law.

"There are some criminal liabilities under computer-intrusion statutes," he said. "But for the most part, former employees, aren't going to be prosecuted."

Asked whether what Orozco did constituted hacking, Clinton replied, "I know [Babeu and his lawyer] want to make it sound that way — but no."

One thing is evident: The sheriff is the victimizer — not the victim — in this sordid affair.

And he has no one to blame but himself for the predicament he finds himself in. Whether, or not, he ever faces criminal liability for what he's done, he has dug his political grave deeper at every turn.

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