U.S. Representative George Santos (R-NY) heads to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote on a Republican motion to refer a Democratic-sponsored resolution to expel Santos from the House to the House Ethics Committee in lieu of an immediate eviction vote, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 17, 2023.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Representative George Santos, RN.Y., asked a federal court on Friday morning to overturn a judge’s order to reveal the identities of the people who guaranteed the $500,000 bond in his criminal fraud case. .
A lawyer for Santos, the scandal-ridden freshman congressman who is accused of multiple financial crimes, argued the backers’ identities should remain private due to fears they will be attacked and harassed due to the “media frenzy” surrounding the case. .
“It is respectfully submitted that the court failed to appreciate the significance of the confidentiality concerns of these sureties,” attorney Joseph Murray wrote in a statement. filing in court in the U.S. District Court on Long Island.
“Given the political temperature in this country and the acts of political violence that are occurring, the privacy interests of these guarantors are of much greater concern, particularly given their age and respective occupations,” wrote Murray.
Three days earlier, Magistrate Judge Anne Shields granted requests from several news outlets who argued the public had a right to know the identities of the guarantors. Shields had given Santos until noon Friday to file his appeal.
Santos, 34, has pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding his campaign supporters, lying to get unemployment money and making false statements on his disclosure forms to Congress. The charges follow a pile of scandals that have plagued the congressman since even before he took office in January.
He has vowed not to step down and is seeking re-election, despite previously admitting to lying about his record during his campaign.
Lawyers for The New York Times had argued that the high amount of bail held by the yet-to-be-identified individuals “presents a clear opportunity for political influence,” particularly because Santos “has been charged with abusing the political process for personal gain.”
But Murray said “compensating factors” support keeping the identity of funders secret. He said Santos, his staff and others had been subjected to “hateful attacks” throughout the case.
“These attacks have been extremely angry, anti-gay, anti-Republican and anti-social,” Murray wrote.
“It is reasonable to conclude that if the guarantors of the defendant are identified, the attacks and the harassment will also begin against them”, argued the lawyer.
This climate contributed to a third potential guarantor “changing his mind and stepping down,” Murray wrote.
He added that if the identities of the other two backers are revealed, they will likely decide “that they have to step aside, as guarantors”.
‘There is great concern for the health, safety and well-being of our two sureties, which unfortunately was not shared by Judge Shields, at least due to their privacy concerns’ , Murray wrote.