Official pleads not guilty in alleged human smuggling scheme

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, right, along with his attorney, Kurt Altman, leave after Petersen's arraignment hearing in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Petersen pleaded not guilty to fraud and theft charges stemming from an alleged human smuggling scheme involving pregnant women from the Marshall Islands who were brought to the U.S. to give birth for adoptions. (AP Photo/Jacques Billeaud)

PHOENIX (AP) — Paul Petersen has requested a hearing to contest his suspension as Maricopa County assessor while he awaits trial for human smuggling and other charges related to his adoption business.

Lawyers for Petersen said in a letter Thursday that suspension was illegal.

Prosecutors in three states say Petersen brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States and paid them to give up their babies for adoption. He's pleaded not guilty.

The county Board of Supervisors last month declared that the Republican assessor had neglected his duties and suspended him without pay for 120 days.

Petersen's lawyers say the supervisors offered no evidence that he failed to carry out his duties as assessor.

A county spokesman says a hearing will be scheduled in the near future.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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