Monica Alonzo, reporter for the Phoenix New Times who broke the story about allegations of Sheriff Paul Babeu threatening to deport his ex-boyfriend, talks about new allegations against the Sheriff.
José Cardenas: Good evening. I'm José Cardenas. We will talk to the reporter who broke the story accusing sheriff Paul Babeu of threatening to deport his ex-boyfriend. Learn about a network of people helping people learn more about ethnic studies and why they think it is a necessary part of educating Arizona students. And we will talk about Latino voting efforts here in Arizona. All this coming up next on "Horizonte."
José Cardenas: A "Phoenix New Times" reporter broke the sheriff Paul Babeu story which involved allegations the sheriff threatened an ex-boyfriend with deportation if he went public with their relationship. The sheriff denies the allegations and says he will not step down as sheriff nor will he suspend his campaign for a Congressional seat in Arizona's fourth district. With me is the reporter who broke the story, Monica Alonzo, from the "Phoenix New Times." Welcome to "Horizonte." There's been a new development, separate and apart from the activities alleged to have occurred in Arizona. Something from the sheriff's past in Massachusetts. Tell us about that.
Monica Alonzo: Well, between 1999 and 2001, the sheriff was a headmaster at a school, a private boarding school for troubled teens in Massachusetts. And the school just had a lot of problems in terms of lawsuits regarding abuse and neglect of the students. During the time that the sheriff was there, the school wasn't licensed. And the state officials are trying to get on campus, they weren't being allowed on campus or being allowed to review the files. When the state officials finally took the school to court and demanded that they open it up, by that time, the sheriff had already moved on. He was no longer at the school but because of the abuse allegations that happened while he was there, this sort of another round of scandal that he is embroiled in now.
José Cardenas: Why did this come to light right now? Is it because of the publicity of the sheriff that's gone across the nation? Actually internationally.
Monica Alonzo: I think there has been a lot of interest in him as an individual. It's not a secret that he was the head master. It's on his campaign website that he was the head master of the school.
José Cardenas: But nobody had suggested from that there was some impropriety that may have taken place there.
Monica Alonzo: No. You didn't really hear about that in mainstream media. There were bloggers that suggested it. The other thing that he's dealing with right now is accusations from his sister that he had a sexual relationship with one of the students from that school. So he's hired a law firm, rose Baugh group, to try to quell these allegations as well, and one of the ways that they are doing it is trying to discredit the sister. They released some information citing mental illness and strange relationship with her own children. So this is just sort of an interesting new development on the already embattled sheriff.
José Cardenas: Does the sheriff himself deny that any of these improprieties took place?
Monica Alonzo: Well, yes, he has. He has denied having a sexual relationship with a student. What was kind of interesting here is that these are very carefully worded denials, and I don't know what the truth is. I obviously wasn't there but by saying he didn't have a sexual relationship with a student, well, the DeSisto School is a residential school. If the student was living with him as the sister alleges he wasn't with the school. The law firm released a letter from the student saying that he did not have an inappropriate sexual relationship with Babeu. Well, in Massachusetts, the news station that reported this, these allegations, point the out that in Massachusetts, the legal allege of consent is 17.
José Cardenas: So the suggestion is that there was a relationship with a young boy.
Monica Alonzo: Simply wasn't inappropriate based on the laws in the state at that time.
José Cardenas: Now, the story that you revealed a couple of weeks ago now, there's several different aspects to it. Of course, you had the fact that the sheriff came out and admitted he was gay as a result of the story coming out. If that had been the only information you had, that the sheriff was gay, would you have run with this story?
Monica Alonzo: No. Clearly not. The fact is that if "New times" or any media outlet wanted to whether I a story about the sheriff being gay it could have happened months ago. People were shopping that idea and everyone he said during his press conference it was well known. I think in many political circles, certainly in the gay community it was well known that the sheriff is gay. So, no, the crux of the story here is that you have a very high profile politician, somebody who is running for Congress, a sheriff of Pinal county, somebody who appears on television all the time talking about border security issues, about stopping illegal immigration, and, you know, now he's facing some very serious allegations about abusing his power. So that's what the story is about. Then secondarily you have the photographs that he put out, sent out his profile on a, you know, sort of, well, it was a gay website where men can arrange sexual liaisons. So all of this sort of adds up to more inappropriate judgment.
José Cardenas: How did this story first come to you?
Monica Alonzo: José reached out to us.
José Cardenas: We are talking about the sheriff's ex-boyfriend?
Monica Alonzo: The sheriff's ex-boyfriend reached out to us. Based on what he told us and what his attorney told us he was tired of being threatened and intimidated and ultimately he felt the best way to stop the bullying that he felt he was experiencing was just to stand up to the bully.
José Cardenas: Before the story broke, I understand you did try to get the sheriff's side of these allegations.
Monica Alonzo: We did. We did. One of their, one of their points that they were really upset about is that they felt we didn't give them enough time. We felt that, you know, a couple of hours was plenty of time for him to say whether they, indeed, did try to raise questions about this gentleman's Visa, raised questions about him being deported if he drew attention to himself. But, you know, clearly they didn't feel that way. Christa Rose, the attorney and campaign manager for Paul Babeu, did talk to us and denied the allegations that were being made by the ex-boyfriend.
José Cardenas: Did he do more than talk to you? Did he threaten legal action?
Monica Alonzo: He was just quite upset. He just felt like it was -- he wanted more time to collect documents, I suppose. He did end up sending us a cease and desist letter that they sent to José, the sheriff's ex-boyfriend. But that really wasn't part of the story we were asking. Did you raise questions about this man's Visa? Were there threats of deportation? And we didn't get a clear answer initially from them on that.
José Cardenas: Now, since the story broke, there have been further details regarding José Orozco, that's his last name. Right? His Visa status. Tell us about that.
Monica Alonzo: Well, when I asked about the Visa status, the attorney told me that she had a copy of it and they had seen it and that it was a valid Visa. Later, when José did an interview with CNN, it was disclosed to them that it was a 10-year tourist Visa. Again, that is just what CNN reported. I haven't seen it but this, again, raise a whole other set of problems for the sheriff. And also for the sheriff's brother, Shawn Babeu. Apparently José did work for both of them on their campaign websites, donated some money, which, again, the Visa situation is still murky but it seems that certainly with the tourist Visa you wouldn't be able to establish residency or you wouldn't be able to have a job. And so now there's those issues that Babeu and his camp have to deal with.
José Cardenas: Now, you referred to this earlier that in addition to the most recent allegations regarding conduct in Massachusetts, and the question about threatening to deport his ex-boyfriend, a question of judgment by the sheriff in hosting information about his personal life on the internet.
Monica Alonzo: Yeah. We have seen it happen before with other politicians. I mean, probably the most familiar one is Anthony Weiner. And the photos that he sent of himself, whether it was shirtless or more explicit photos, it really does call into question a public official, a high-profile public official's judgment when they do something like that. And clearly, when you look at the text messages that the sheriff sent to this individual he believed was mad, even he said, I can't send you any photos because of my job. He clearly identified himself as the sheriff. He talked about how, yes, he was the sheriff that was in the ad with John McCain. So even as he's identifying himself in a professional manner to this individual that he never met before, he's also saying, I can't send you the pictures that you are asking me for and yet he sends them. So even he understood that what he was doing was dangerous, politically dangerous.
José Cardenas: Monica, we are almost out of time. One last question. Any information about how this is going to affect his campaign?
Monica Alonzo: We already see the yellow sheet had report the his poll numbers are dropping. He's behind one of his opponents now where he had a clear lead. So we're just going to have to wait and see until the next round of campaign finance reports come out to see how he is could go financially, whether people are asking for their donations back or, you know, ultimately voters are going to have to decide if he is the type of candidate that they want in Congress.
José Cardenas: Monica Alonzo, "Phoenix New Times," thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."
Monica Alonzo: Thanks very much for having me.
Monica Alonzo:Phoenix New Times;