Judge rules to release names of Rep. Santos bond cosigners, will stay secret as appeal considered
Jun 6, 2023, 10:17 AM | Updated: 10:24 am
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal magistrate ruled Tuesday to make public the names of the cosigners on indicted Rep. George Santos ’ $500,000 release bond, but said she’ll keep them secret for now to give his lawyer time to appeal the decision.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields’ ruling came a day after Santos’ lawyer said the New York Republican would risk going to jail to protect the identities of his cosigners whose backing enabled his pretrial release.
The decision was a victory for news outlets including The Associated Press and The New York Times that petitioned Shields last week to unseal the names, citing a need for “the greatest transparency possible.”
Santos’ lawyer, Joseph Murray, urged Shields to keep the names secret. He suggested that the congressman’s cosigners could “suffer great distress,” including possible job losses and physical harm, if they’re identified publicly.
Murray said he, Santos and Santos’ staff have been receiving threatening and harassing calls and messages, including death threats. He said he worries Santos’ critics “are just waiting to pounce” on the people backing his release.
“My client would rather surrender to pretrial detainment than subject these suretors to what will inevitably come,” Murray wrote.
Shields gave Murray until 12 p.m. Friday to appeal. A message seeking comment was left with Murray.
Santos, 34, represents parts of Queens and Long Island. He pleaded not guilty May 10 to charges he duped donors, stole from his campaign, lied to Congress about being a millionaire and cheated to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve.
At Murray’s request, Shields agreed at Santos’ arraignment to keep the cosigners’ names out of the public court record. In her ruling Tuesday, Shields reversed that decision.
Santos has defied calls to resign and has said he won’t drop his bid for a second term. He is due back in court on June 30.
Santos’ bond is unsecured. That means his cosigners didn’t have to put up any money up front, but could be forced to pay the full amount if he doesn’t comply with his release conditions or fails to show up for court.