A federal judge today ruled that the three anonymous guarantors who cosigned out Rep. George Santos’s (R-NY) $500,000 bond will be made public at noon on Friday.
The move comes after Santos’s lawyer, Joseph Murray, begged the court to keep their names a secret, saying that he and Santos “truly fear for their health, safety, and well-being.” Murray even said that Santos would prefer to go back to jail until his trial than to have the guarantors’ names made public.
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Santos has not said whether he will follow through on that and go back to jail by Friday to keep the guarantors’ names secret.
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Santos was arraigned last month and faces 13 federal charges, including seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, and one count of theft of public funds, related to alleged illegal schemes to enrich himself. Santos pleaded not guilty and was released on a $500,000 bond to await his trial.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields told him that he would need to find three guarantors for his bond. He found three and the judge approved them. All three went to the courthouse to sign the bond, but their identities weren’t made public.
As Bloomberg Law noted at the time, this was “a departure from typical federal court practice,” where guarantors are identified in open court and advised of their responsibility to ensure that he returns to court. No documentation was posted about them to the public docket in federal court in Central Islip, New York, either.
Now Santos is fighting to keep their names a secret, saying that they “are likely to suffer great distress, may lose their jobs and, God forbid, may suffer physical injury” if their identities are made public.
“There is little doubt that the suretors will suffer some unnecessary form of retaliation if their identities and employment are revealed,” the lawyer continued, according to CBS News correspondent Scott MacFarlane.
“My client would rather surrender to pretrial detainment than subject these suretors to what will inevitably come.”
The New York Times has requested the names of the guarantors, arguing in court that the public has a right to know because Santos is an elected official and the situation “presented an obvious opportunity for political influence.”
“That risk is further heightened by the fact that the very crimes Rep. Santos has been charged with involve abusing the political process for personal gain,” the Times‘ lawyers argued.
Judge Shields apparently disagreed that the risk to the guarantors was enough to keep their names hidden and has ordered that they be made public on Friday, giving Santos time to appeal the ruling.
The House Ethics Committee has also asked Santos about the identities of the guarantors, saying that he “may have solicited or received an improper gift in connection with the bond sureties.”
But Murray said they would not tell the House Ethics Committee the guarantors’ names unless the court unseals them. He also claimed that bond sureties are “exceptions to the gift rule.”
“Please understand that unless or until such time that the Court unseals the identities of the suretors, the surety records, and proceedings, I cannot share that information with this Honorable House Ethics Committee,” he told the House Ethics Committee in a May 31 letter.