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Updated Aug 31, 2012 - 1:40 pm

Sheriff Babeu cleared in abuse of power probe

PHOENIX – Paul Babeu has been cleared in a state investigation into
whether he abused his authority as sheriff of Pinal County, after his former
boyfriend who is a Mexican immigrant accused Babeu of threatening him.

State Solicitor General Dave Cole said Friday that nothing indicates Babeu
misused his authority or public money to harass or intimidate Jose Orozco, and
Cole declined to file criminal charges in the case. He also exonerated Orozco,
whom Babeu accused of property and identity theft in the handling of the
sheriff’s Twitter account and other websites.

Babeu had asked the attorney general’s office earlier this year to look into
Orozco’s claims. Cole oversaw the seven-month investigation to avoid the
appearance of a conflict of interest on the part of Attorney General Tom Horne.

“The truth has won out in the end,” Babeu said in a statement. “I was
attacked personally, professionally and politically with these false
allegations, and today, I’m fully cleared. It’s not surprise that these attacks
came during an election year in a failed attempt to destroy me.”

Orozco’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sheriff, who recently won the Republican nomination in his re-election bid,
had pulled out of the race for a congressional seat after news broke of his
falling out with Orozco. The two met online in 2006 and had an on-again,
off-again relationship.

Babeu, known for his hardline stance on illegal immigration and border
security, was considered a strong candidate in the 4th Congressional District.
He said he decided to seek another term as sheriff because his deputy could not
run and to keep a promise to constituents that he would maintain a continuity of

Orozco had volunteered to work with Babeu’s campaign and maintained his
websites until Babeu hired a consultant to take them over. Even then, Babeu said
Orozco was hesitant to hand over passwords and domain names. Orozco told
authorities he worked hard on the website as an unpaid volunteer and wasn’t
about to turn it over to a paid consultant.

The attorney general’s office had considered filing harassment and other
charges against Orozco but determined that prosecution of misdemeanor counts
wouldn’t be a good use of resources.

Babeu said he asked Orozco to keep private the details of their personal
relationship. Babeu acknowledged he is gay after a picture of him shirtless was
posted on a gay dating website.

Babeu still faces another inquiry from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. That
office is looking into whether Babeu and his top aides violated the federal
Hatch Act, which makes it illegal for certain government workers to participate
in political activities.


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