Santos asks court to reverse order to reveal his bail backers’ identities in criminal fraud case

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U.S. Rep. 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 instead of an immediate explusion vote, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 17, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., asked a federal court Friday morning to reverse a judge’s order to reveal the identities of the people who guaranteed the $500,000 bond in his criminal fraud case.

An attorney for Santos, the scandal-plagued freshman congressman who is charged with multiple financial crimes, argued that the backers’ identities should remain private because of concerns that they will be attacked and harassed as a result of the “media frenzy” surrounding the case.

“It is respectfully submitted that the court failed to perceive the importance of the privacy issues of these suretors,” the attorney, Joseph Murray, wrote in a court filing in U.S. District Court in Long Island.

“Given the political temperature in this Country and acts of political violence that occur, the privacy interests of these suretors are far more concerning, especially considering their ages and respective employment,” Murray wrote.

Magistrate Judge Anne Shields three days earlier had granted requests from several news outlets that had argued that the public had a right to know the guarantors’ identities. Shields had given Santos until noon on Friday to file his appeal.

Santos, 34, has pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding his campaign supporters, lying to obtain unemployment money and making false statements on his congressional disclosure forms. The charges follow a pile of scandals that have weighed down the congressman since even before he took office in January.

He has vowed not to resign and is seeking reelection, although he previously acknowledged that he lied about his record while campaigning.

Lawyers for The New York Times had argued that the large bail amount backed by the yet-to-be-identified people “presents an obvious opportunity for political influence,” especially because Santos “has been charged with involve abusing the political process for personal gain.”

But Murray said that “countervailing factors” support keeping the bail backers’ identities under wraps. He said that Santos, his staff and others have been subjected to “hateful attacks” through the case.

“These attacks have been extremely angry, anti-gay, anti-Republican and all around antisocial,” Murray wrote.

“It is reasonable to conclude that if Defendant’s suretors are identified, that the attacks and harassment will commence against them too,” the lawyer argued.

That climate contributed to a third potential suretor “having a change of heart and withdrawing,” Murray wrote.

He added that if the other two backers’ identities are released, they are likely to decide “that they shall have to withdraw from, serving as suretors.”

“There is great concern for the health, safety, and well-being of our two suretors, which sadly, was not shared by Judge Shields, at least as a factor of their privacy concerns,” Murray wrote.

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