An Irish man is facing extradition to the UK from New York where he has lived for more than 40 years for assaulting a British police officer in 1980.
Ori McGrath, a 62-year-old dual national from Ireland and the United States, is accused of breaking the nose of a West Yorkshire police officer during a fight outside a pub in Leeds.
Federal District Judge Paul E. Davison said Justice Department attorneys have satisfied the burden of probable cause in their case to extradite McGrath, who was arrested in May.
Davison added in the matter, however, that he could remain free on bail pending his extradition.
According to court documents, the altercation erupted in Leeds that night when one of McGrath’s friends, Leslie Sweetenbank, beat up another young man outside a bar in the city’s Garforth section.
«They were giving us a lip, so I went and bumped every one of them and everyone joined in, and we hit them,» Swightbank later told the police.
When a local police officer intervened to break up the fight, he ran over a group of Swithenbank’s friends, including McGrath, and began assaulting the officer.
After being kicked out of Swithenbank, a police officer chased after the gang and grabbed McGrath in a nearby parking lot.
According to the documents, one of the young men involved in the fight told the police: «The silly one took Rory this time.»
McGrath then allegedly «bumped the cop» and punched him in the face, breaking his nose. The officer, who is still alive, required surgery to repair the injury.
McGrath and several of his friends were arrested shortly after the altercation broke out, but instead of appearing in court he fled to New York, where he has lived ever since.
In 2018, the UK authorities suddenly submitted a request for extradition to the US State Department, requesting that he be transferred to their custody.
McGrath told Magistrate Paul Davis that he was shocked by his arrest, while the judge acknowledged that McGrath does not consider himself a fugitive from justice.
«On the one hand, Mr. McGrath appears to have been a fugitive for most of his adult life. On the other hand, I am told he attended a wedding in the UK during the intervening years, suggesting to me that he did not consider himself a fugitive,» Davis said at the 18 May hearing. .
He agreed to release McGrath on bail after his attorney highlighted his client’s health issues, which are said to be linked to volunteering at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11.
Judge McGrath warned against skipping bail.
«You know, this has been hanging over your head your whole life, and you need to get over it. But really, really bad things are going to happen to you and your family if you break the terms of this bond,» Davis told McGrath. .
In an attempt to get around extradition, McGrath’s lawyer, James Kosoros, said the request was flawed in part because it was made based on a 2004 agreement that he said was not viable after the United Kingdom left the European Union.
Judge Davison dropped the argument, highlighting that two other Florida courts have ruled in similar cases that Brexit did not affect what was agreed in 2004.
«We continue to maintain that the extradition was a procedural flaw, but we are very pleased that the court ruled in Mr. McGrath’s favor on the arrest case,» Kosoros told The Post on Wednesday.
In his decision to release him on bail, Davison indicated the relatively minor punishment McGrath would face in the UK if convicted of the crime.
«He will face limited penalties if convicted in the United Kingdom and will certainly be eligible for bail if charged with similar offenses in the United States,» he wrote.
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