Outed Arizona gay sheriff and ex-Romney aide ‘dated teenage male student when he ran troubled boarding school a decade ago’

Posted: February 29, 2012 in US News

Mark Duell
Daily mail
February 29, 2012

Republican Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu confirmed this month he’s gay
New allegations stem from when he was head of Massachusetts school
Denies sexual relationship with 17-year-old boy while he was headmaster
Also denies allegations that he threatened deportation of ex-lover ‘Jose’
Dropped out of Romney campaign to focus on own congress campaign

It’s been a busy fortnight for this Arizona sheriff and Mitt Romney aide, who has come out as gay, denied threatening to deport his ex-lover to Mexico and promised to continue his bid for Congress.

Now Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, 43, is fighting allegations he dated a 17-year-old male student while he was head of the now-closed DeSisto School in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a decade ago.

The boarding school used controversial discipline methods such as ‘sheeting’, which forced students to remove their clothes and wear only a sheet, according to former students and state records.

Sheriff Babeu was headmaster from 1999 to 2001 at a time when the school for troubled teenagers was probed by state childcare officials for repeated abuse allegations, reported ABC affiliate KNXV.

Former student Holli Nielsen said the school was ‘cult-like’ and she had to spend her 16th birthday wearing nothing but a sheet. State documents also alleged students ‘strip searched’ each other.

They also ‘routinely took group showers’ leading to sexual abuse, the documents said. Students said being ‘cornered’, where they had to sit and face the wall for hours, was the worst punishment.

The state probe forced the school to be shut down three years after Sheriff Babeu left. His sister claimed to KNXV she remembered a student living with him, whom he described as his ‘boyfriend’.

Although eight former students claim Sheriff Babeu had a relationship with the student, both men deny any inappropriate or sexual bond at the school. But the student said they remained friends.

At 17 the boy was within the state legal age of consent. A spokesman for Sheriff Babeu said he was never targeted by any probe or lawsuit and was known for restoring the school’s financial stability.

‘Sheriff Babeu never had a sexual relationship with a student,’ he told the Los Angeles Times. ‘A student has never lived with Sheriff Babeu.’ The sheriff was not involved in discipline issues, he said.

The claims come after the notoriously anti-immigration aide to Republican presidential candidate Mr Romney left the campaign after he was accused of threatening to deport his ex-gay lover to Mexico.

The man, only identified as ‘Jose,’ claimed Sheriff Babeu threatened him with deportation if he ever disclosed their three-year relationship, reported the Phoenix New Times. Sheriff Babeu denied this.

He said all the accusations in the alternative weekly newspaper were ‘absolutely false, except to the issues that refer to me as being gay’ and arose to mar his chances of running for congress.

Sheriff Babeu, who served as the co-chair of Mr Romney’s campaign in Arizona, is seeking the GOP nomination for Arizona’s rural western fourth congressional seat.

The sheriff denied claims he tried to threaten the man with deportation if their past relationship was made public. Jose’s allegations were first published on Friday in the New Times.

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