Updated: August 31, 2012, 4:55 PM
Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu was cleared of criminal wrongdoing on Friday in a case involving threats he allegedly made against an ex-boyfriend to keep their relationship a secret.
An immigration hawk in a border state, Babeu until recently was a rising star in the Republican Party. He was the Arizona co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and had launched a run for Congress this year.Then in February, a newspaper in Phoenix publicly outed him as gay and revealed that a former boyfriend, Jose Orozco, said Babeu had threatened him.
An immigrant from Mexico who was living illegally in the United States on an expired visa, Orozco said the sheriff planned to have him deported if their relationship ever became public. In turn, Babeu held a news conference accusing Orozco of hacking into his campaign website after the relationship ended.
On Friday, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, Arizona Solicitor General Dave Cole, cleared Babeu of wrongdoing.
“There is no indication that he misused any authority or misused public money to harass or intimidate Jose Orozco,” Cole wrote in a memo released Friday. “As indicated in the agent’s report, Orozco’s allegations are not supported by the facts.”
Cole also said there would have been enough evidence to charge Orozco with with identity theft and harassment, but that the possibility of conviction would have been slim. Because of that, Cole said, no one would be charged in connection with the case.
Babeu immediately quit Romney’s campaign when the allegations surfaced in February. Weeks later, he quit his race for Congress and decided to run for reelection as the Pinal County, Ariz., sheriff. On Tuesday, he won his Republican primary against several challengers.
“It’s no surprise these attacks came during an election year in a failed attempt to destroy me,” Babeu said in a news release after the decision was announced. “I want the media and my political opponents to know; my name has been cleared, I shall not be silenced by your slander.”
Questions may still remain, however. The Arizona Republic reported earlier this year that about 6,200 files went missing from the sheriff’s office after the solicitor general requested they be preserved for the investigation.