Pinal County Sheriff and Congressional Candidate Paul Babeu supported, and even bragged about, the use of extreme, dangerous and abusive disciplinary methods on special needs students at a Massachusetts boarding school he used to run, according to a home video obtained by ABC15.
The video, which shows a recording date of Christmas 1999, was obtained from Babeu's sister.
The video directly contradicts Babeu’s repeated denials and legal threats after ABC15 aired reports about his ties to the school in 2012.
At the time, the Sheriff denied any “knowledge” of any mistreatment of students.
But for ten minutes in the video, Babeu talked in detail about punishments used at the DeSisto School in Stockbridge, Mass., where he was Headmaster and Executive Director from 1999 to 2001.
Multiple times Babeu said the discipline “works” and “helps” students. He described one of the most punitive punishments as “amazing.”
Tuition at the therapeutic school topped $65,000. Many of the students had special needs, including eating disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts or attempts, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, self-harm, Tourette’s syndrome, and substance abuse issues.
“You should see these kids, they’re bonkers,” said Babeu in the video. Shortly later, he said, in order to get better, the students “need to feel hopeless and feel depression and complete failure.”
Experts told ABC15 that DeSisto’s discipline was “criminal child abuse” and “torture.”
In May 2000, Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services launched a lawsuit and investigation against DeSisto directly in the middle of Babeu’s tenure. The state’s ongoing lawsuit -- to force DeSisto to become licensed and stop abusive practices -- eventually drove the school to shut down in 2004, records show.
There’s no ambiguity between the methods found by state investigators and the methods described by Babeu to his family. Throughout the video, the specific disciplinary terms used by Babeu match exactly to the terms cited by investigators.
ABC15 offered to show the video to Babeu two business days before the story aired. He elected not to view it.
Instead, the Sheriff’s campaign spokesman, Barrett Marson, met with reporters to watch the footage. Marson took notes and said he would discuss the matter with the Sheriff.
They released the following statement a few hours before the story aired:
This 16-year-old video of a family Christmas gathering shows nothing new. As the administrative head of the the school, I had no responsibility over student discipline and at no time was I interviewed by investigators on these issues. Sadly, this is just an attempt to use my mentally unstable sister to attack me. I feel bad for Lucy and hope she can get the help she needs to live a stable life. Arizonans don't want to hear this mudslinging, instead they want to know how our leaders plan to secure the border, protect America from terrorists, defend our 2nd amendment rights and end deficit spending. These are the issues where I am focused.
Babeu's sister, Lucy, provided ABC15 with the home video.
"It's defamation and slanderous," Lucy Babeu told ABC15 after hearing the Sheriff's statement. "I have a seizure disability and to say that I am mental because I've told the truth is discriminatory."
Sheriff Babeu and his lawyers also challenged his sister's comments in our 2012 investigation. However, ABC15 verified and confirmed everything Lucy Babeu said in the report with several other students and state documents.
"This is proof coming from Paul's mouth. Not me," Lucy Babeu said. "He was in charge in that position. This is him. He did this to those children."
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.