February 22, 2013

Mass. man fights extradition in Scotland poison case

The Associated Press

BOSTON – A Massachusetts man is fighting extradition to Scotland, where he is facing attempted murder charges for allegedly poisoning a fellow college student's wine.

Alexander Hilton, of Princeton, Mass., appeared Thursday in federal court in Boston and asked to be released on bail pending an extradition hearing scheduled for March 7. His lawyer says Hilton is mentally ill and denies any wrongdoing.

A federal prosecutor argued that Hilton should be detained, given the seriousness of the charge and his mental illness.

The Boston Globe reported that a magistrate judge did not immediately rule.

Hilton, 21, was studying economics and computing at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, in March 2011 when he spiked another American's wine with methanol, also called wood alcohol, according to prosecutors. St. Andrews is Scotland's oldest university, founded in 1413.

The students were playing drinking games in a dormitory before a ball, and Hilton told the other student from Virginia that the red wine was a gift, authorities said. The other student suffered severe nausea and headaches, temporarily lost vision and would have died had he not gone to the hospital, according to prosecutors.

"It's an attempted murder case ... a serious case, and we can't lose sight of that," Assistant U.S. Attorney David D'Addio told the judge.

Authorities did not disclose a motive for the alleged poisoning, but witnesses told investigators Hilton had been acting strangely at the time. He returned to the U.S. just days later.

Hilton has suffered mental illness since childhood and has been placed on suicide watch at a federal detention facility where his condition is deteriorating, his lawyer, Norma Zalkind, told the judge.

"He's going to get sicker and sicker and sicker," Zalkind said.

Zalkind also said the U.S. extradition treaty with the United Kingdom should be voided because it fails to guarantee an American citizen of his constitutional rights under the American judicial system.

A member of the Virginia man's family said they had no comment because they did not want to interfere with the judicial process.


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