Judge blames George Santos for personally feeding ‘media frenzy’ into his mysterious bail sponsors before making their names public

Judge blames George Santos for personally feeding ‘media frenzy’ into his mysterious bail sponsors before making their names public

By: Posted: June 23, 2023

george santos court
Rep. George Santos spoke to the media about his bail guarantors, undermining his argument that they needed privacy, the judge ruled.

  • A federal judge disclosed the identities of George Santos’s bail sponsors: His dad and aunt.
  • Santos was personally responsible for giving reasons to unseal their names, a judge wrote.
  • He personally fueled the “media frenzy” cited to keep their identities private, according to the judge.

A federal judge blasted Rep. George Santos for personally feeding the “media frenzy” into his two mysterious bail sponsors, which helped force her hand and make their identities public.

US District Judge Joanna Seybert commented on Santos’s conduct in an order issued on Tuesday and unsealed on Thursday, along with the bail sponsors. The Republican congressman’s father Gercino Antônio dos Santos Jr. and Elma Santos Preven signed his bond, making them on the hook for $500,000 if Santos violates the conditions of his release ahead of a criminal trial.

Santos’s lawyer Joseph Murray had argued that their identities should remain secret given the “media frenzy” surrounding the New York representative’s case and the potential for harassment.

Seybert — siding with a group of news organizations, including Insider, that asked for the documents to be unsealed — wrote those concerns had little basis.

Santos personally fed that frenzy by speaking to members of the media following his May arraignment in federal court on Long Island, Seybert wrote in her ruling.

“The Suretors did not come before the Court until May 15, 2023, five days after Defendant’s highly publicized arraignment and plea; it is spurious to contend that the Suretors were unaware of the media reaction that had occurred earlier,” Seybert wrote.

“At that time, Defendant did nothing to diffuse the ‘media frenzy’ when leaving the courthouse, instead choosing to address the numerous reporters awaiting his departure,” she continued.

Unsealing the names would quell speculation personally fueled by Santos, the judge ruled

Federal prosecutors brought a 13-count indictment against Santos in May, alleging he personally stole donations to his Long Island Congressional campaign operation, illegally took pandemic employment funds, and lied to Congress on financial disclosure documents.

Santos pleaded not guilty during an arraignment held in a federal courthouse in Central Islip. Afterward, he told journalists outside that they would “never” find out the identities of the sureties.

“That is information you’ll never get,” he said. “Because your intention is to go harass them and make their life miserable. You’re not getting that.”

The arraignment was overseen by US Magistrate Judge Anne Shields, who made the unusual decision to keep the bond documents sealed, shielding the identities of the bail sponsors from the public “to accommodate their privacy concerns,” she wrote in a later court ruling that was also unsealed Thursday.

Shields wrote that the identities should ultimately be unsealed, finding secrecy untenable given Santos’s role in Congress, and because the Congressional ethics committee requested information about the bond.

“Neither of the Suretors are public figures. Each wishes to avoid the public spotlight occupied by the Defendant. The Court understood their concerns in sealing the Bond and the signing proceeding,” she wrote. “However, upon consideration of the present motions in the context of the standards set forth herein, and the specific concerns of the public and Congress, the Court holds that the Suretors’ privacy rights are undoubtedly outweighed by the weight of the right of access.”

george santos court
Rep. George Santos speaking to members of the media outside court.

A third bail sponsor referenced during Santos’s arraignment never stepped forward to sign a bond document. Their identity remains unknown.

Shields also held a secret meeting with Santos’s father and aunt, further keeping their identities private at the time.

At that meeting, Seybert pointed out, neither of them “raised any concerns that the media interest in the Defendant’s case was in anyway problematic to their serving as suretor.”

Any potential harassment, Seybert said, was purely speculative. And it was necessary to disclose the identities of the sureties to quell additional speculation, she ruled.

“In sum, given the facts and circumstances of this case, disclosure of the family-member Suretors’ identities is necessary to quell the speculations surrounding the granting of Defendant’s release bond, thereby outweighing the speculative privacy concerns raised by Defendant,” Seybert wrote.

Santos previously said he’d rather go to jail than have their identities disclosed. But he ultimately didn’t file a motion to modify the conditions of his release, which would have allowed him to find new bail sponsors or stay in jail ahead of his criminal trial.

Seybert said in her ruling that having family members post bond is very common, and Santos was fueling speculation by trying to keep their identities secret.

“It is more likely that disclosure of the Suretors’ identities will render any potential ‘story’ a ‘non-story,’ especially considering the News Organizations’ acknowledgement of this fact,” she wrote. “Indeed, it appears Defendant’s continued attempts to shield the identity of his Suretors, notwithstanding the fact that he is aware their identities are not controversial, has simply created hysteria over what is, in actuality, a nonissue.”

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