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Sheriff Babeu cleared in abuse of power probe

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and his ex-beau won’t be facing criminal charges for actions related to their breakup that eventually doomed the sheriff’s congressional hopes, the Attorney General’s Office reported.

Solicitor General David Cole determined that Babeu, who dropped his congressional bid in May, did not commit any crimes and the state would likely lose at trial in bringing charges of computer tampering and identity theft against Babeu’s ex-boyfriend, Jose Orozco. Cole considered filing a misdemeanor harassment charge against Orozco, but decided not to because it would not be a good use of resources.

An investigative report paints Orozco as a jilted lover on a mission to embarrass Babeu.

“I knew how this would end, because I knew the truth, yet I had to prove my innocence,” Babeu said a statement released by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

Babeu, who won overwhelming in Tuesday’s Republican primary for sheriff, told investigators in a March interview that the scandal damaged his congressional campaign, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He dropped out of the race for Congressional District 4 after contributions to his campaign slowed to a trickle.

“Babeu said he was not sure if (he) will ever be able to recover from what happened,” the investigative report read.

Babeu’s press release said the media had an agenda to prove him guilty and that his homosexuality was never an issue until Orozco accused him of the deportation threat.

Cole began investigating Babeu’s allegations in February that Orozco hacked into the sheriff’s campaign website and Twitter account and Orozco’s allegation that Babeu threatened to have him deported.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson wrote in a memorandum that Orozco’s allegations “are not supported by the facts.”

Lawson prepared a draft indictment against Orozco and presented it to Cole and Criminal Division Chief Andrew Pacheco. They determined Orozco had been given the authority to post as Babeu on his campaign website and Twitter account.

Orozco tweeted that Babeu was having ethical and personal problems and provided a link to a gay dating website where Babeu had a profile featuring a shirtless photo of himself, the report said.

Orozco worked as a volunteer on Babeu’s campaign. He developed his website and managed the Twitter account until a paid consultant took over the job to make it more professional.

Babeu and Orozco had dated off and on for several years before the relationship began to sour in May 2011. Orozco went to the Phoenix New Times to expose Babeu, whose homosexuality had been rumored for years in media and political circles. He had never publicly acknowledged it.

Orozco, a Mexican citizen, alleged in the February article that Babeu, an immigration hawk, had threatened to have him deported.

Orozco’s attorney, Adnan Horan, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is still investigating whether Babeu and his top aides violated the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits certain government workers from participating in politics.

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