Embattled Rep. George Santos on Friday urged a New York federal judge to keep secret the three people backing his $500,000 bond as he battles a 13-count criminal indictment.
The New York Republican asked Judge Joanna Seybert of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to reverse a ruling from a magistrate judge that would reveal the suretors for his bond. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields ordered the identities be made public earlier this week but gave Santos until Friday to appeal.
Santos in a filing argued he has suffered a “media frenzy” and “hateful attacks” since an arraignment in May, which he noted was mobbed by reporters ahead of that court date.
The New York Times and other news outlets had convinced a magistrate judge the names should be unsealed, but Santos argued doing so would put them in an unfair spotlight.
“Moreover, 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,” the Santos filing said.
Santos also argued that he has already told the House Ethics Committee in public filings that the suretors of his bond are family members and exempt from House gift rules.
“Defendant has essentially publicly revealed that the suretors are family members and not lobbyists, donors or others seeking to exert influence over the Defendant,” the filing said.
As part of Santos’ arraignment, a group of suretors backed a $500,000 bond and a lawyer for Santos successfully convinced a magistrate judge to keep their identities under seal.
Last month, The New York Times, The Associated Press, ABC News and other news outlets argued for “the greatest transparency possible,” in a case that accused a sitting congressman of a wide variety of crimes.
“The public’s interest in this matter cannot be overstated,” the media outlets wrote.
The media organizations raised the concern that the suretors could have ulterior motives and the only way for the public to know would be to unseal their identities.
“That the identities of these sureties have been shielded from public scrutiny, particularly in light of the specific charges against Rep. Santos, only breeds suspicion that the sureties could be lobbyists, donors, or even fellow-congressmen or public officials seeking to exert influence,” the media filing said.
Santos is next scheduled to appear in court at the end of June. The indictment alleged Santos committed wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and false statements to the House of Representatives.
Santos won election to New York’s 3rd District last year and has faced controversy about false statements over his record since shortly after the election. He voluntarily stepped away from committee assignments.
In March the Ethics Committee convened a panel to investigate Santos, including possible campaign finance violations.
House Democrats launched an effort to have him expelled after his indictment last month, but Republicans instead voted to send the measure to the House Ethics Committee.