Paul Babeu's Suspicious Past as School's Headmaster

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The woman described Babeu as Geyer's "commitment holder," a title the school gave to staff members selected by students to monitor their progress.

"You would go to someone you could trust, or [whom] you could speak to about your problems," the former student says. "They were supposed to help you heal."

When Babeu took over as the school's headmaster, it was operating unlawfully without a state license, and it already was embroiled in lawsuits from dissatisfied parents.

Each family paid tuition of about $65,000 a year for their child to be in an environment that was "excessively punitive" and created "an extreme risk of injury even death," the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services said in legal papers.

This state agency "received many allegations of abusive practices at the school," state investigators said, adding that Massachusetts officials repeatedly were denied access to the campus and to student files:

"The school effectively stonewalled the OCCS, claiming [DeSisto School was] not subject to [state] licensing, but refusing to provided necessary information to back up [the] claim."

The school argued that it didn't need a license because it wasn't serving enough special-needs students. According to Massachusetts law, if more than 30 percent of the student population was made up of such students, a license was required.

When state officials finally forced open the school's files in 2001 after almost 20 years of complaints, they classified more than 40 percent of the student body as special needs. The school ultimately shut down in 2004 because it was unable to comply with state mandates.

Court and state records paint a chilling account of life at DeSisto, including during the time that Babeu ran it.

One student refused to stop leaning against a wall and was physically restrained for several hours. Another who threw a plate and got into an argument was tied up for nearly six hours.

A student forced to sit in a metal chair for weeks, facing the corner, wasn't properly medicated, became severely depressed, and urinated and defecated on himself. The teen eventually was taken to the hospital for treatment for pneumonia.

Records show that students had to take group showers, "denying them privacy and leading to instances of sexual abuse."

A few months after a court ordered the school in 2001 to either shut down or apply for a license, Babeu resigned. He recently told various media outlets that he was only responsible for the school's operations, including maintenance of the grounds.

But he told another story on a campaign website. There, Babeu described his time at DeSisto as a period when he was "frequently recognized for his effectiveness in personnel management and fiscal abilities."

In 2002, when he applied for a job as a Chandler cop, Babeu noted on his application that, while at DeSisto, he supervised directors of the school and 80 full-time employees.

Babeu counters allegations of his relationship with the student or his knowing about abusive conditions at the school by attempting to discredit his sister. He portrays himself as a victim under attack by a mentally ill family member.

Babeu, the second-youngest of 11 children, described his family as one with "lots of different personalities" in a 2010 interview with the Arizona Daily Star.

"I've seen lots of different things in our family, but that's all family business," he said at the time.

Babeu's representatives at the Rose firm now are divulging this "family business" by releasing allegations detailing Lucy Babeu's alleged mental illness. According to the firm, she was placed in psychiatric care on two occasions, had her children taken away, and has been a frequent drug abuser.

Lucy Babeu denied these claims to New Times, calling them "slanderous."

The sheriff, a candidate for Congress in Arizona's conservative 4th District, says he's also a victim of attacks by political enemies.

On March 3, during an interview with Newsmax, Babeu says the timing of the allegations are suspect.

"[His being gay was] pushed around for months and months — in fact, for years," he told the conservative website. "Political opponents have threatened me, trying to go to the newspapers and the TV stations . . . clearly, looking at the timing of this election. They're literally five months away from primary ballots being mailed to voters, we being 10 points ahead."

That was then. A new poll — taken after New Times broke the story that Babeu's Mexican ex-boyfriend says the sheriff and his lawyer tried to intimidate him into keeping the love affair secret — showed Babeu six points behind Congressman Paul Gosar in the 4th District.

The former lover, Jose Orozco, says the sheriff's attorney raised threats of deportation when he refused to sign a document promising he would never disclose details of the affair. Orozco has filed notice that he intends to sue Babeu and Pinal County for $1 million for violating his civil rights.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo