Rory McGrath, the dual US-Irish citizen who was extradited from New York to the UK in 2022 on an assault charge from 1980, was found not guilty after a week-long trial at Leeds Crown Court on Thursday, February 2.
McGrath, who had been imprisoned in HMP Leeds after being extradited from the US in July 2022, was ordered to be released immediately upon the jury's verdict, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported.
Judge Robin Mairs thanked the jury but told them he “did not know why” the case was brought after so many years.
“We have worse things to deal with, if I can put it that way,” Judge Mairs said.
McGrath, 64, had been charged with actual body harm in relation to a fight outside of a pub in Leeds in March 1980 where a police officer had his nose broken.
According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, four men were convicted of the attack in 1980, but McGrath fled the UK, first moving to Dublin and then to America in 1986. He became a US citizen in 2002.
In New York, McGrath was a longtime member of the NYC Carpenters Union and was a volunteer at Ground Zero after 9/11.
In May 2021, McGrath was arrested at his family home in Pearl River, New York in relation to the 1980 alleged assault.
McGrath recounted during the trial that “12 to 15 US Marshals, fully armed in riot gear” arrived at his home.
“I went outside to see what was going on, I thought it might to do with my sons," McGrath said. "They did not tell me anything. They went into my house and took my wife and kids out of bed.”
McGrath was taken to court and ultimately released on bail under strict conditions. He remained under house arrest until he was extradited to the UK in July 2022.
During the course of his trial, which began on January 23, McGrath accepted he was present for the fight in 1980, but denied hitting the officer.
When asked if he had been 'hiding out' after the alleged assault in 1980, McGrath replied: “Hiding out in plain view? I did not change my name or have any plastic surgery.”
Ahead of the trial, McGrath's family had launched an appeal for justice as well as a GoFundMe for legal fees. As part of their appeal, McGrath's family noted that he had traveled internationally "on many occasions" since the alleged assault and was in English jurisdiction for a family wedding in the UK in 1996, and at no time was any attempt made to detain him.
After McGrath’s acquittal on Thursday, West Yorkshire Police said: “Victims of crime rightly expect the police to make all possible efforts to track down wanted suspects, regardless of the passage of time.
“This outstanding warrant was fully reviewed and assessed at the time that a local neighbourhood policing team officer became aware and revisited it in 2015.
“The Crown Prosecution Service was consulted and confirmed that the case met the evidential threshold and was still in the public interest to pursue.
"Although the defendant has now been found not guilty following a trial, we maintain that our continued pursuit of this outstanding warrant was appropriate.
“This whole sequence of events came about from the defendant deliberately avoiding the criminal justice process by failing to attend court at the time he was charged.”