Rep. George Santos loses ruling on anonymity of his bail guarantors
A federal magistrate judge on Long Island, New York, on Tuesday ruled against Rep. George Santos’ request to keep private the identities of people who guaranteed his $500,000 bail bond last month, but delayed their release to allow the New York congressman time to appeal.
The decision by the judge, Anne Y. Shields, came after media organizations, including The New York Times, requested their release. The groups had argued that the identities of the three individuals who initially stepped in to help Santos after his indictment were a matter of intense public interest.
Santos’ lawyer had firmly opposed disclosing the names of the so-called sureties, arguing in a letter Monday evening that they were “likely to suffer great distress, may lose their jobs, and God forbid, may suffer physical injury.”
The lawyer, Joseph Murray, contended that Santos, 34, was willing to go to jail to protect his sureties’ anonymity, and asked that the judge allow them time to potentially withdraw. Government prosecutors had not objected to identifying them.
Shields was not persuaded by Santos’ arguments, but she gave him until noon Friday to appeal her decision to a district court judge on Long Island. She also took the unusual step of sealing her decision to protect the names until the appeal was ruled upon.
Legal experts said there was little chance Santos would actually be detained even if his sureties were to back out. But the fight over their identities raised new legal and ethical complications as the Republican congressman fights charges of fraud, money laundering and stealing public funds.
Murray shared a letter with the court Monday showing that the bipartisan House Ethics Committee was already scrutinizing the bail arrangement.”
Santos was celebrated by his party last November, when he flipped a Queens and Long Island House seat long held by Democrats. But his biography began to unravel in December after the Times and other media outlets discovered that he had a fabricated job history, claimed to have degrees he never earned, boasted about vast wealth he did not have and misled political donors.
Federal prosecutors charged him with 13 felony counts in early May, including wire fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds related to several schemes. He pleaded not guilty and has refused to resign his seat.