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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Dan Barker

US fugitive fails to appear at extradition hearing after ‘altercation’

PA Wire

A suspected rapist wanted in the United States failed to appear at his latest extradition hearing after an “altercation”, a court was told.

Nicholas Rossi was expected to appear in the dock at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday as part of his long-running extradition battle, which was launched after authorities in the US state of Utah accused the 35-year-old of sex offences.

But Rossi, who continues to claim he is in fact Irish orphan Arthur Knight, and not a US citizen, did not appear in court.

These proceedings, the obstructionism and denial, have gone on simply too long
— Advocate Depute Paul Harvey

His solicitor Stuart Murray told Sheriff Norman McFadyen there “appeared to be some difficulty downstairs”, and Advocate Depute Paul Harvey said there had been an “altercation”.

Mr Murray said his client denied refusing to come to court. Sheriff McFadyen said it was his understanding staff were not prepared to take him to the court following the incident.

During the hearing, which was split into two parts to allow Mr Murray to speak to Rossi, the court heard the defence is still waiting for reports. They include one into human rights in US prisons, a psychiatrist’s report, and one by a general practitioner into Rossi’s physical health.

The court was told there was also a report about facilities in Utah, where he would be sent if the extradition request was successful, but that Rossi’s attorney across the Atlantic was reluctant to recommend an expert because of funding issues.

Mr Harvey told the court the date for the full extradition hearing on June 26 “simply cannot change”, that the Crown needed appropriate time to consider these reports, and that they had been instructed earlier this year.

He said: “I say all that against a background of delay, obstructionism, and denial about this requested person.

“These proceedings, the obstructionism and denial, have gone on simply too long.”

And Mr Harvey said the requested person had been “canvassing opinions and throwing up smokescreens”.

Rossi had claimed he was Arthur Knight, an Irish orphan who had never been to the United States.

But last November, after months of court hearings, Sheriff McFadyen ruled he was the man American authorities were seeking in connection with rape and sexual assault charges.

It has been alleged Rossi faked his own death in 2020 and fled to the UK to evade prosecution before he was arrested in December 2021.

Rossi was first arrested in October last year after checking himself into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow with Covid-19.

While in Scotland, under the alias Knight and posing as a tutor, Rossi developed Covid pneumonitis and became “the sickest patient on the ward”, according to medical staff who were caring for him at the time.

It was at this point Police Scotland officers were issued with an Interpol red notice, with pictures of the wanted man, including images of his tattoos and fingerprints.

On Thursday, Sheriff McFadyen told the court he would allow two further weeks for expert reports to be acquired, and set a deadline for these to be provided for May 4.

He said another preliminary hearing would be scheduled for May 22, and Rossi was remanded in custody.

During discussions about a potential bail application, Mr Murray told the court it would be under a different address, because financial issues meant the family home Rossi and his wife shared was unable to be maintained.

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