A rape suspect from the US found living under a false identity in Scotland is to face a full extradition hearing.
Nicholas Rossi has made headlines worldwide after spending the last 11 months trying to con the Scottish courts into believing he is Arthur Knight, an orphan from Ireland who has never been to the US.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court ruled on Friday the 35-year-old is indeed Rossi, a man US authorities have been seeking in connection with rape and sexual assault allegations.
It has been alleged he faked his own death in 2020 and fled to Scotland to evade prosecution.
After an identification hearing that lasted about three-and-a-half days, Sheriff Norman McFadyen concluded: “I am ultimately satisfied on the balance of probabilities… that Mr Knight is indeed Nicholas Rossi, the person sought for extradition by the United States.”
A full hearing on Rossi’s extradition to the US will now go ahead in Scotland in March, the court heard.
Mungo Bovey KC, defending, requested bail for his client on the grounds he remains accused, and not convicted.
But Sheriff McFadyen rejected the plea “given the flight risk he represents”.
Rossi was first arrested in October last year after checking himself into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow with Covid-19.
While hiding 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.
Medical staff and the two officers who arrested Rossi, Pc Shannon McGill and Pc Jamie Crombie, told the court they were able to identify the patient by looking at the tattoos.
Charge nurse Ruth Keating said the patient, who she knew as Arthur Knight, had “distinctive” tattoos that “looked familiar” to Rossi’s pictures on US paperwork.
Rossi was granted bail at the time on the understanding he required more treatment.
But he was then rearrested on January 20 at his address in Glasgow for failing to attend an extradition hearing that day.
Procurator fiscal Jennifer Johnston insisted Rossi posed “a significant flight risk” at the time, and told the courts he had made several attempts to leave the hospital with oxygen canisters in December, including hiring a private ambulance and offering to pay £100 to a taxi to take him home.
A stream of preliminary hearings then took place, which saw Rossi sack at least six lawyers working on his case and claim that he had been tortured by prison officers.
The hearings culminated in an extraordinary identification process which saw fingerprint expert Lisa Davidson confirm the prints taken from the man after his arrest were identical to those of Rossi, which were included on a US extradition request and the Interpol red notice.
Rossi, who appeared at the hearings in a wheelchair with a stack of Scots law books on his lap, subsequently tried to convince the courts his fingerprints had been taken by an NHS worker called “Patrick” on behalf of US prosecutors to frame him.
He further claimed to have been tattooed while in a coma in hospital in order that he resembled the wanted man.
In a bid to explain his multiple aliases, Rossi claimed his name changes were a way of helping him detach himself from what he claimed to be a traumatic childhood.
Advocate depute Paul Harvey, however, dismissed Rossi’s claims as “outlandish” and “fanciful”.
He also pointed out that Rossi’s accent was “all over the place”, swapping between posh English and other accents throughout the hearings.
Sheriff McFadyen rejected Rossi’s lies about his tattoos and fingerprints as “implausible” and “fanciful”.
He said the repeated name changes are “highly suspicious” and “consistent with someone who was hiding from someone or something”.
Miranda Knight, Rossi’s wife, gave evidence during the identification hearing, during which she referred to her husband as Arthur Knight and defended his reasons for changing his name.
But her evidence was dismissed by the sheriff on the grounds it was all information given to her by Rossi himself.
The accused is wanted by authorities in Utah who allege he raped a 21-year-old in 2008.
In addition, US prosecutors submitted supplementary extradition requests in late October for Rossi, one of which relates to an allegation of rape in Salt Lake City and another to an allegation of sexual assault elsewhere.
He has been remanded in custody until the next hearing.