One of Arizona's rising Republican stars is facing allegations he threatened to deport a Mexican resident who claims to have been his gay ex-lover.
The Phoenix New Times is reporting that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who has become one of the faces of the anti-illegal immigration fight in Arizona and nationwide, threatened a 34-year-old man identified only as Jose with deportation if he disclosed details of their years-long affair. Jose had previously been asked to sign paperwork that he would never breathe a word about the affair.
According to Jose's immigration attorney, Babeu's lawyer falsely claimed the central Mexico resident's visa paperwork had expired. "He did come in and retain me late last year based on threats and intimidation, and he wanted an attorney to help protect him,'' Melissa Weiss-Riner told the Arizona Republic.
The New Times and local Fox News affiliate KSAZalso published photos which appear to be of a barechested Babeu, which had been uploaded to a profile allegedly belonging to the sheriff on the gay dating website Adam4Adam.com.
Though he acknowledged Jose was a volunteer who helped on his first campaign for sheriff in 2008, Babeu -- who is currently running for Congress in his home state -- declined to respond to questions about whether the pair had a romantic relationship, saying he would not discuss his personal life, according to the Arizona Republic. When pressed for a comment by KSAZ, Babeu's attorney nonetheless slammed the allegations against his client: "He believes he'll be judged by his record as a 20-year veteran of the United States Armed Forces, police officer who has saved two lives in the line of duty and responded to thousands of emergencies, and Iraq war veteran."
Babeu subsequently released a statement, noting, "The allegations referred to an incident that occurred on Sept. 6, 2011, when the campaign’s website, Twitter account, and online financial transaction system were illegally hacked...a cease and desist letter was sent to the suspected perpetrator who promptly returned access to the campaign. We strongly deny the sensationalist headline published by the Phoenix New Times."
UPDATE: Talking Points Memo reports Babeu is now stepping down from his role as Arizona co-chair of the Mitt Romney for President campaign. A Romney spokesperson told TPM, "Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him. We support his decision."