David Leavitt: Why the American lawyer who hunted Nicholas Rossi bought Knockderry Castle in Scotland

“Nicholas Rossi came to Scotland to hide – we came here to live.”

Former US Attorney David Leavitt smiles his intention as he gazes out over Loch Long from the tower of the Scottish castle he is now converting into his dream family home.

The Utah lawyer was behind initial efforts to extradite fugitive Nicholas Rossi from Scotland, a case that continues to make headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.

Leavitt says he lost his bid for re-election as district attorney last summer, which eventually allowed him to pursue his dream of restoring a historic castle.

He resigned from his post in January and is now the proud owner of Knockderry Castle in Cove, near Helensburgh.

STV NewsKnockderry Castle has been at the center of a long bankruptcy battle. STV News

The purchase is the latest twist not only in the lengthy extradition process, but also in one of Scotland’s longest-running bankruptcy battles.

“Yes, I agree that there have been many twists and turns,” he says. “Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

“Scotland was always high on our list but the fact that Nicholas Rossi was in prison 50 miles from here almost put us off buying Knockderry.

“Honestly, we knew there would come a day when we would sit in the middle of the castle and answer questions about what was going on, but then we realized that our dreams are our dreams.”

The former prosecutor describes the Rossi extradition case as “one of the most important” on which he worked. He had already lost his re-election bid when his wife spotted Knockderry Castle for sale online, priced at £1.2million.

READ :  Lawyer warns of fog to “quit less”

“There is already a big difference with this building since we bought it and when we first arrived a few months ago. Water poured down the walls of the beautiful main room and we found the value of this castle diminishing every day.”

The Leavitts were also close to leaving the sale after learning more about Knockderry’s history. The previous owners were evicted after 22 years of bankruptcy proceedings that began with a dispute over a £230 debt.

“I think the facts surrounding this bankruptcy, which ultimately led to the sale of the castle, speak as much to the problems in the Scottish legal process as to the debtor problems.

“We saw this as an opportunity to save a historic and spectacular building.

“We will make this our family home. We have nine children and a growing number of grandchildren. We want to make this a place of peace, so they know wherever they live in the world, this is their home.”

As Utah prosecutor, Leavitt filed charges against Rossi after identifying him as a suspect in a 2008 rape case. The extradition process began when authorities traced Rossi to a Glasgow hospital, where he was being treated for Covid. The 35-year-old who was arrested claims he was the victim of a mistaken identity.

STV NewsDavid Leavitt at his new home Knockderry Castle. STV News

In the midst of his re-election campaign last year, Leavitt was forced to defend himself against a smear campaign he believes was orchestrated by the man who was fighting extradition from Scotland. He says he was forced to hold a press conference to quash allegations of ritual child abuse and cannibalism.

READ :  Hunter Biden's attorney is calling for a nationwide probe into people close to Trump over the controversial laptop

“Without question, I lost the election partly because of Nicholas Rossi. The overall picture is that the American criminal justice system is on fire and not functioning. I had a choice of whether the headline should be that I’m accused of being a cannibal, or whether the headline should be a little more palatable.

“The truth is, ever since I lost the election, I’ve felt the satisfaction of standing up for what was right. I have protected the public under my watch in a way no one has ever done with Nicholas Rossi.

“If you think through the allegations he made throughout the extradition process, the many layers of conspiracy it would take for that to happen, they are as farcical as cannibalism. “

Rossi – who calls himself Arthur Knight – has denied making the allegations against Leavitt and has repeatedly told the Edinburgh Sheriff Court he is an Irish orphan accused by US prosecutors. He told an earlier hearing that he awoke from a coma in Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to find his arms had been tattooed to resemble the suspect wanted in Utah.

But last November, a sheriff ruled the man before him was Nicholas Rossi, a convicted sex offender wanted in connection with rape allegations. A full hearing on the extradition case was postponed earlier this month when the defendant refused to board a prison van.

“The reason Rossi is sitting in his jail cell refusing to appear in court is because he’s still trying to control the situation,” says Leavitt.

“I salute the Scottish authorities who are willing to go through such a difficult process in the name of public safety for another jurisdiction.

READ :  Hunter Biden's lawyers are targeting his critics with a new aggressive strategy

STV NewsA mugshot of Nicholas Rossi, left, and Rossi as the man claiming to be Arthur Knight. STV News

“There is a process that needs to be followed to ensure we get the right man, so I have no criticism of it taking so long. If Nicholas Rossi wants to fight it until he’s 70, that’s fine with me, because Nicholas Rossi is in prison. He’s not hurting anyone but himself at this point.

“In many ways, let it last as long as it takes in the UK, but there’s a process waiting for him in America that won’t start until he stops fighting here.”

The full hearing on the extradition case is scheduled to take place in June. As the case slowly rumbles through the court, the race to watertight the castle begins in Argyll.

“I suspect we will be living in this castle long before Nicholas Rossi is convicted in the United States. It will take a long time. I see it like a relay race where one person does a lap and passes the baton to another.

“I’m out of the running and watching on the sidelines like everyone else. I’m like any other citizen, I’m just observing what’s happening.”