Edinburgh sheriff rules arrested man is fugitive wanted to face trial for rape in United States

Edinburgh sheriff rules arrested man is fugitive wanted to face trial for rape in United States

A sheriff has determined under section 78 of the Extradition Act 2003 that a man who appeared before him at Edinburgh Sheriff Court under the name Arthur Knight was in fact a wanted fugitive sought by the United States of America to face trial.

Nicholas Rossi, who was accused of rape in the state of Utah, maintained that he was not the requested person and was an orphan from Ireland who had never visited the USA. He argued that the evidence that suggested he was the requested person had in fact been fabricated by US authorities.

The hearing was conducted by Sheriff Norman McFadyen. Harvey, advocate, appeared for the Crown on behalf of the United States, and Bovey KC appeared for the requested person.

Changes of name

At the initial stage of the extradition hearing, evidence was led from staff of the Intensive Care Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital who treated the requested person in 2021 when he was seriously ill from Covid, as well as two police officers who attended the hospital to apprehend him. Additional evidence was given by two detective constables who took fingerprints from him at a later date and two fingerprint examiners who compared the impressions taken to other impressions said to relate to Mr Rossi.

In her evidence, the charge nurse who treated the requested person spoke of a number of tattoos present on his arms which were similar to tattoos included on known photographs of Mr Rossi. In particular, the nurse was able to identify a tattoo that looked like a coat of arms with a red cross and four areas within it, as well as another tattoo of an angel wing. Both fingerprint examiners positively identified the impressions of two fingers they had examined as those of Mr Rossi.

The explanation for the tattoos given by the requested person was that he had been given them while he was unconscious in hospital, and the fingerprints said to be Mr Rossi’s had been taken from him by an NHS worker named Patrick who had passed them to prosecutors in the USA. His changes of name had resulted from a desire to address adverse childhood experiences and from his marriage in the UK, before which he was using the name Nicholas Brown.

Counsel for the requested person suggested that the sheriff could not rely on the evidence of those who had seen tattoos on his arms, and any changes of name were adequately explained by his marriage and by his desire to address adverse childhood experiences. The advocate depute suggested that the use of similar names by the requested person that were strikingly close to the name Nicholas Rossi, and his frequent changes of name were consistent with a person in hiding.

Implausible and fanciful

In his decision, Sheriff McFadyen said of the fingerprint evidence: “I have no valid or coherent reason to doubt that the prints examined were those provided by the US authorities and that these are, as they assert, prints of Nicholas Rossi who is charged in their proceedings and I reject Mr Knight’s explanation as to how his prints came to be taken while he was in hospital. and inserted in the relevant files as implausible and fanciful. The identification of the limited, but still perfectly adequate number of fingerprint impressions in the extradition papers was made confidently by officers with relevant experience.”

Moving onto the tattoos, he continued: “I am satisfied that there is powerful evidence of similarity of quite distinctive tattoos being seen on Mr Knight which resemble in detail the distinctive tattoos on the photographs of Nicholas Rossi. Mr Knight’s evidence as to how the tattoos that were seen by witnesses got there – that he regained consciousness to find that he had been tattooed while in a coma in the intensive care unit – was equally as, if not more implausible and fanciful than his evidence about being fingerprinted by Patrick.”

Addressing the requested person’s changes of name, the sheriff said: “I do not accept Mr Knight’s evidence that this was just about getting married and addressing adverse childhood experiences; while I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Miranda Knight’s evidence as to her understanding of why Mr Knight wished to change his name, her information about his reasoning came entirely from him.”

He concluded: “It seems to me highly suspicious that the change of names went through a number of permutations. That seems to me consistent with someone who was hiding from someone or something. It is therefore an adminicle of evidence, that is, it is a relatively minor supporting piece of evidence which supports the evidence as to identification, but does not amount to freestanding proof of identification.”

The sheriff therefore affirmed that the person appearing before him was Nicholas Rossi and continued the hearing for further procedure.

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