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Embattled adoption attorney seeks delay of trial until October

Delay until October sought in Marshallese adoption charges by Doug Thompson | November 26, 2019 at 1:00 a.m.
Paul Petersen, center, an Arizona elected official accused of running a multi-state adoption scheme, leaves court following an initial appearance on charges filed in the state Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arizona adoption attorney charged with 19 federal crimes involving illegally enticing women to give up their babies asked for a 10-month delay in his trial date in a motion filed Monday.

"As this court is aware, defendant not only faces criminal allegations in this court, but he has also been indicted by the state of Arizona and the state of Utah," says the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville. The motion asked the trial be delayed from Dec. 9 to October.

Defendant Paul D. Petersen, 44, of Mesa, Ariz., faces a total of 62 charges: 19 federal counts in Arkansas, 32 state counts in Arizona and 11 state counts in Utah, all regarding his services as an adoption attorney in those states. He is free on separate bonds in the different states but, by order of the federal court in Arkansas, has to wear a GPS monitoring device.

The federal indictment accuses Petersen of paying pregnant women from the Marshall Islands, a small nation in the western Pacific, to give up their children for adoption. He paid their airfare to the United States for that purpose and then gave them airfare home, all in violation of a specific clause in a treaty with the islands' government, his indictment says.

U.S. Attorney Duane "Dak" Kees estimated Petersen's firm oversaw about 30 such adoptions a year or more in Arkansas beginning in 2014 or earlier. Petersen also organized such adoptions in Arizona and Utah, according to state charges in those jurisdictions. His charges in Arizona include illegally signing up those birth mothers, who were temporary residents, for Medicaid benefits only allowed to permanent residents of that state.

The defense has already received 100,000 documents -- not pages of documents, but documents -- in the related cases, Monday's motion says. Many more are expected, the motion says.

"Additionally, the defense investigation into this matter will literally require work in at least three separate states and potentially a foreign nation, the Republic of Marshall Islands," the motion says.

The U.S. Attorney's office does not oppose the delay request, the motion says.

In Arkansas, Petersen faces federal charges of one count of conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain; four counts of aiding and abetting alien smuggling for commercial advantage and private financial gain; seven counts of wire fraud; five counts of mail fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

In addition to the criminal charges, Petersen faces a civil lawsuit by 13 couples who were prospective adoptive parents at the time of his arrest in October. The suit is filed in Washington County Circuit Court. In Arizona, he faces a dispute with the Maricopa County, Ariz., Board of Supervisors. The board suspended him from his duties as county assessor, an elected position, after his arrest.

NW News on 11/26/2019

Print Headline: Adoption attorney seeks trial delay


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