PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The man authorities believe is a former Rhode Islander who faked his own death to avoid prosecution appeared in a Scottish courtroom this week.
Arthur Knight was arrested earlier this year after authorities were able to match his DNA with that of Nicholas Alahverdian, who has been charged with rape in Utah and allegedly died of cancer in Rhode Island two years ago. That DNA was obtained while Knight was hospitalized with COVID-19 in Scotland.
Prosecutors believe Alahverdian, who’s also gone by Nicholas Rossi and a host of other aliases, moved to Scotland after faking his own death in 2020.
But Knight maintains that they have the wrong guy, adding that he changed his name after marrying his wife in 2020, the same year Alahverdian reportedly died.
Utah-based defense attorney Craig Johnson is now helping Knight prepare for court proceedings should he be extradited to the United States. Johnson arrived in Scotland late this week.
“I really take a lot of delight and joy in helping out clients who are in tough spots,” Johnson said. “When he reached out to me and I looked at his case, I wanted to give him the best advice possible.”
Johnson tells 12 News he believes his client for a number of reasons. First, he said Knight has none of the tattoos that Alahverdian had on both of his arms.
He also doesn’t believe Utah County Attorney David Leavitt’s claim that Knight’s DNA matches Alahverdian’s.
Johnson previously worked for Leavitt, and a Salt Lake Tribune article from March 2020 reveals that Johnson and two other prosecutors resigned from the office amid an investigation into whether they received inappropriate gifts from a defense attorney.
At the time, Johnson said the purchases did not influence the way he prosecuted his cases.
Johnson said he will be in Scotland until Sunday. He is not representing Knight in the U.K. proceedings.
“[Knight] is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and the fact that we’re still banding this about was it really him or not shows that there is reasonable doubt in my mind, and that’s why he needs someone to advocate for him,” Johnson said.
Knight is scheduled to return to court in two weeks and he has another extradition hearing set for early May.