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Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) on Friday appealed a judge’s ruling ordering the names of his bond sponsors be unsealed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields on Tuesday granted media organizations’ requests to make the documents public over the embattled congressman’s objection, but she first gave Santos until Friday to appeal her decision.
Santos’s attorney, Joseph Murray, in a Friday letter asked U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, an appointee of former President Clinton, to review the order.
Murray again cited a “media frenzy” in attempting to keep private the identities of the people who cosigned Santos’s $500,000 bond in his criminal case, saying he feared for the suretors’ health and safety.
“It is very likely that if the suretor’s identities are released, that Defendant and the suretors will mutually decide that they shall have to withdraw from, serving as suretors,” Murray wrote.
“In that Defendant may be subject to more onerous conditions of release or may be subject to pretrial detention, presents as a potential countervailing factor to consider up against either the common law right of access to judicial records or the qualified First Amendment right to access,” he continued.
But Murray gave the strongest indication yet that the bond sponsors include Santos’s relatives, saying Santos would not object to the sealed records being unredacted to reveal the existence of a “family” relationship. Previous court documents have alluded to relatives’ involvement.
“Defendant has essentially publicly revealed that the suretors are family members and not lobbyists, donors or others seeking to exert influence over the Defendant,” Murray wrote.
Santos’s decision to appeal this week’s ruling is the latest chapter in the months-long controversy surrounding the first-term congressman, who has drawn intense scrutiny amid questions about his biography and finances.
He faces 13 federal charges that accuse him of misleading campaign donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits and lying on financial disclosures. Santos pleaded not guilty.
In December, before Santos was sworn into Congress, The New York Times published a bombshell report that questioned details of his biography. He later admitted to embellishing parts of his resume, but more questions have since been raised pertaining to the New York Republican’s background and finances.
Santos faces calls to resign from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but he has been adamant that he has no plans to step down. In April, he announced his reelection bid.
Lawmakers in both parties have also called for Santos to be expelled. That effort reached a fever pitch last month, when the House voted to refer a resolution to expel the congressman to the Ethics Committee — a move that allowed lawmakers to avoid weighing in directly on whether they believe he should be forced out.
The decision, however, was largely redundant because the Ethics panel is already looking into Santos. Last month, the committee requested information on the individuals who co-signed Santos’s bond. In a letter dated May 31, Murray asked that his client receive a 30-day extension to respond to the request while also noting that he is not able to hand over the requested information until it is unsealed by the court.
Murray did, however, say that if the court ultimately unseals the information regarding the bond co-signers — which it did this week, but Santos is now appealing — he would hand over the information to the committee.
“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,” Murray told the committee.
“If the Court decides to unseal the identities of the sureties, the surety records and proceedings, I will share that information with the Committee. If, however, the Court upholds the sealing, I will also share that Order with this Committee,” he added.