A rape suspect accused of faking his own death to avoid prosecution can be extradited to the US to face charges, a court has ruled, with the sheriff branding him “as dishonest and deceitful as he is evasive and manipulative”.
Nicholas Rossi is wanted by authorities in Utah for allegedly raping a woman in 2008.
He also faces multiple complaints against him in Rhode Island for alleged domestic violence.
The 35-year-old learned his fate on Wednesday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court when Sheriff Norman McFadyen ruled there is no impediment to him being extradited.
Sheriff McFadyen told the court: “I conclude that extradition would be compatible with the convention rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998 and that the question to that effect in section 87(1) of the 2003 Act must be answered in the affirmative.
“It follows that I must send the case of the requested person Nicholas Rossi to the Scottish ministers for their decision whether he is to be extradited.
“I concluded that the evidence of the requested person was unreliable to the extent that I would not be prepared to accept any statement of fact made by him unless it was independently supported.
“He contradicted himself as regards the length of time he had been in a wheelchair in the same breath.
“His claim that he could not lift his arms above his head and keep them there because of atrophy in his arms was contradicted by his behaviour during the proceedings when he regularly raised and kept his hand raised during the hearing as he tried to engage the attention of the court.
“I am not alone in finding his reporting unreliable; I recall, for example, that (Rossi’s GP in HMP Edinburgh) Dr Mundweil doubted whether she could rely on what he told her about his medical condition.
“He continues to maintain that he is an Irishman, adopted at birth, long resident in the United Kingdom and who has never set foot in the United States.
“He has, with medical professionals and in court, avoided questions about his childhood and upbringing, I conclude because that is a canvas on which he has not yet chosen to paint, although he has asserted various psychiatric ailments which ultimately could not be established without the history that he has chosen not to share.
“I conclude that he is as dishonest and deceitful as he is evasive and manipulative. These unfortunate facets of his character have undoubtedly complicated and extended what is ultimately a straightforward case.”
Despite a court ruling last November that he is Rossi, the accused insists it is a case of mistaken identity and that he is an Irish orphan called Arthur Knight.
Rossi appeared at the court on Wednesday by video link after claiming to be unwell.
He was bent over at the waist, dressed in a green jumper and did not show his face.
When asked if he is Rossi, he did not answer.
Rossi’s lawyer Mungo Bovey KC attempted to delay proceedings and asked for Rossi to be excused.
Sheriff McFadyen suggested Rossi had attended court by videolink “voluntarily”, but in an angry outburst Rossi said he had been brought before the camera by “physical force” and he called the sheriff “a disgrace to justice”.
During a week-long hearing in June, Rossi wore what appeared to be a black legal gown and a yarmulke – a hat worn by Orthodox Jewish men.
Questioned about his dress in court, Rossi claimed the gown was actually called a bekishe, an overcoat also worn by Orthodox Jewish men.
The fugitive converted to Judaism while in HMP Edinburgh, where he has been held since 2022.
This final hearing was adjourned from July 12 following delays in court proceedings due to issues with transport from HMP Edinburgh as well as interruptions by Rossi, who attempted to dismiss his counsel Mr Bovey on two occasions.
Throughout the June hearing, Mr Bovey attempted to have the case discharged as his client is wanted for questioning about an alleged rape in England.
He also claimed Rossi was not brought before a sheriff within an appropriate amount of time and that he did not receive a crucial document from the National Crime Agency when he was arrested in December 2021 – but all of these applications were turned down by the sheriff.
He said extradition to the US would be a “flagrant breach” of Rossi’s human rights.
Attempts were also made to give more time for Rossi’s mental health to be assessed, but three medical witnesses including psychiatrists Dr Kunal Choudhary and Dr Angela Cogan, as well as Dr Mundweil, said he showed no signs of acute mental illness.
Dr Mundweil also cast doubt on the state of Rossi’s health in general, telling the court she had “no major concerns”, adding there is “no reason” for Rossi to be using an electric wheelchair and that his legs are “strong and athletic”.
She also told court she saw a video appearing to be of Rossi kicking open a door and kicking a prison officer in the face, despite using a manual wheelchair in prison.
Giving evidence in his defence, Rossi claimed he was unable to raise his arms above his head because he was too unwell.
He said the reason he used a wheelchair was because the muscles in his legs had been so badly atrophied that he is unable to walk or support himself.
He also said he had considered going to the US to prove he is not Rossi.
Rossi was arrested at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on December 13, 2021 after being traced by Police Scotland.
He was served an Interpol red notice and a National Crime Agency certificate, a document Rossi claims never to have received, while he was in hospital in December 2021.