By Mary Slosson
(Reuters) - The Arizona Attorney General on Tuesday agreed to investigate accusations by the male lover of a tough-on-immigration sheriff alleging that the lawman threatened to deport him if he made their relationship public.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Tom Horne said the office was opening an investigation after a request by embattled Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who resigned as co-chairman of Mitt Romney's campaign in Arizona on Saturday over the allegations.
Babeu had asked that authorities in adjacent Gila County to investigate "allegations of human rights violations, threatening and intimidating, misuse of public resources, theft of property, theft of identity, fraud and impersonation."
But Horne stepped in and offered to lead the investigation, Horne spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said. She said more details on the investigation would be forthcoming on Wednesday.
Babeu acknowledged during the Saturday news conference that he is gay and had a personal relationship with the man, whom he identified only as "Jose."
But the sheriff, a strong critic of the Obama administration's stance on immigration, denied that he or his lawyer threatened to deport his former lover to Mexico if he talked about their relationship.
Babeu first came to statewide prominence in 2010 when he appeared in a campaign ad for U.S. Senator John McCain calling for tough immigration measures.
The sheriff was considered a rising star in state Republican politics and a strong candidate to win the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in Arizona this year.
(Reporting By Mary Slosson; editing by Dan Whitcomb and Tim Gaynor)