A suspected fugitive battling extradition to the US on rape and fraud charges still hasn’t hired a lawyer nearly four months after being detained in a Scots hospital.
Prosecutors contend the man is Nicholas Rossi, 34, who faked his own death in 2020 and fled America to escape an array of alleged offenses.
During an extradition hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday, he again claimed his name was actually Arthur Knight.
The court was told he hadn’t instructed a law firm to represent him and funding for his legal defense wasn’t in place.
He was arrested at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on December 13 last year while receiving treatment for Covid-19 after medical staff were shown pictures of him.
US prosecutors claim Nicholas Rossi raped a 21-year-old in Orem, Utah, in 2008. He is also said to have attacked women in Rhode Island, Ohio and Massachusetts.
The man claiming to be Arthur Knight attended the hearing in an electric wheelchair while his wife Miranda carried an oxygen tank connected to his breathing mask.
Defense agent Anna Kocela said she wasn’t appearing officially as her solicitor, but to assist the court. Ms Kocela said “her identity is in dispute in this case”.
She added her law firm still hadn’t been instructed by him and funding was “in question”.
Sheriff Ross asked him if he intended to instruct the firm.
Speaking haltingly through his mask, the accused said he was “99.9 per cent” sure he would.
The sheriff asked why he’d not already instructed a lawyer to act on his behalf.
The suspect replied he’d only met with the firm’s representatives a week ago and time was needed to review the case details.
Sheriff Ross asked him why months had passed and “you are only now getting round to instructing a lawyer”.
Amid ongoing confusion over his answers, Sheriff Ross asked him: “Simple question, have you or have you not instructed a lawyer?”
The accused replied: “Yes.”
Sheriff Ross asked Ms Kocela about the situation and she again confirmed her firm hadn’t received formal instructions.
The sheriff said: “There you have it, Mr Knight or Rossi, the lawyers are saying they are not instructed.”
He told the accused his next move should be to instruct a solicitor “with haste” and set a further hearing for April 21.
Depute prosecutor Clare Kennedy said allowing two weeks for a lawyer to be instructed “seems sensitive”. She added that the suspect’s previous lawyers had withdrawn from acting for him “several weeks earlier”.
Ms Kennedy said the Crown didn’t oppose his bail continuing as the accused was subject to regular visits by police at his Glasgow address and wasn’t considered a flight risk.
Sheriff Ross continued bail and warned the accused, who only turned up at court shortly before midday, that he must be present at 10am for the next hearing.
Outside court, the accused declined to answer why he hadn’t yet hired a lawyer or where legal funding would come from.
Authorities in the US say Nicholas Rossi was also known as Nicholas Alahverdian in Rhode Island where he was reportedly involved in local politics.
US prosecutors say the conman has previously used the names Nick Alan, Nicholas Brown, Arthur Brown and Arthur Knight.
Rossi reportedly told US media in December 2019 that he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live. Several outlets reported that he had died in February 2020.
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