FLORENCE, Ariz. (CN) - Embattled Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu launched an illegal attack to silence his ex-boyfriend, including a bogus criminal investigation and threats and intimidation from his attorney, the man says in a $1 million notice of claim.
Babeu, the Republican sheriff of Pinal County who is seeking a seat in Arizona's new 4th Congressional District, has been under a national spotlight since Mexican national Jose Orozco told the Phoenix New Times in February that the sheriff threatened to have him deported if he revealed their relationship.
Babeu, a Tea Party favorite known in Arizona for his tough stance on border issues, responded to the story with a press conference in which he came out as gay and called Orozco's claims "absolutely and completely false."
Pinal County, southeast of Phoenix, is home to suburban enclaves, farmlands, Indian reservations, Florence State Prison and about 375,000 residents. Babeu has been the county sheriff since 2008.
Orozco made his allegations official in a March 2 notice of claim sent to the sheriff's office and the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.
Babeu has 60 days to respond to the claims, after which they will be considered to have been denied.
The notice states that Orozco and Babeu met in 2006 and began their relationship in 2007. About a year later, Babeu made Orozco administrator of his campaign website. The threats began after the relationship ended in a fight last September, Orozco claims.
"Sheriff Babeu made threats of harm Mr. Orozco and his family if their relationship was revealed," the notice states.
After Orozco, in fear, hired a Phoenix attorney, Babeu's lawyer threatened to have him deported, according to the notice.
"Thereafter, during a telephone conversation on Sept. 11, 2011 between Orozco's attorney Melissa Weiss-Riner and Sheriff Babeu's attorney Christopher DeRose, DeRose asserted that because Mr. Orozco's visa had expired, it would be in his best interest to resolve the situation quietly by agreeing to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding his personal relationship with Sheriff Babeu, effectively threatening Mr. Orozco with his livelihood," the claim states.
DeRose, who did not respond to a request for comment, sent Orozco a threatening cease-and-desist letter on Sept. 6, 2011, after Orozco allegedly posted online "a number of personal and professional allegations against the sheriff," according to documents filed with the notice of claim.
The notice adds that "in late February, 2012, Sheriff Babeu requested for the first time an investigation of Mr. Orozco, including accusations that Mr. Orozco committed a series of crimes and wrongful acts nearly six months prior to the date the Sheriff's request for investigation was made."
The notice states that Orozco seeks $1 million for emotional distress and harm to reputation. "The evidence gathered thus far supports both that figure and our belief that a jury would award a much greater amount at trail that that claimed herein," it states.
Orozco is represented by Melissa Weiss-Riner with the Horan Law Offices in Phoenix.
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