Stiffest sentence sought against Arizona ex-politician


PHOENIX — Arizona authorities are seeking the stiffest possible prison sentence against a former politician in metro Phoenix on fraud convictions stemming from his acknowledged operation of an illegal adoption scheme in three states that involved birth mothers from the Marshall Islands.

Prosecutors haven’t publicly specified the number of years in prison they will seek Friday at what will be the second of three sentencing hearings for Paul Petersen, a Republican who served as Maricopa County’s assessor for six years until his resignation a year ago and also worked as an adoption attorney.

In court records, prosecutors said only that they wanted aggravated sentences that ran consecutively to each other, rather than at the same time. Under such a scenario, Petersen could face as many as 18 years in prison, according to sentencing ranges listed in his plea deals.

Petersen, who is serving a 6-year prison term for a federal conviction in Arkansas stemming from the adoption scheme, is asking for a sentence of five years or less in Arizona — and that he be allowed to serve it while doing his prison term in the Arkansas case.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office, which is prosecuting Petersen, called for aggravated sentences in the Arizona cases in a court filing last year, but didn’t respond to a question Tuesday about how many years in prison prosecutors were seeking against the former assessor.

Petersen is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in Utah for human smuggling convictions.

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