A judge reportedly held a secret hearing with the 3 anonymous people sponsoring George Santos's $500,000 bail
- Three anonymous people are sponsoring the $500,000 bond for Rep. George Santos.
- A court filing said a judge held sealed court hearings with them to keep their identities secret.
A judge overseeing the federal criminal case against Rep. George Santos of New York held a secret hearing with the three people on the hook for his $500,000 bond and went to extraordinary lengths to keep their identities secret, according to a new court filing.
Santos was arraigned in federal court on Long Island on May 10, pleading not guilty to a 13-count criminal indictment where federal prosecutors alleged he stole funds from political donors meant for campaign expenses, illegally took pandemic unemployment payouts, and lied to Congress on financial forms.
US Magistrate Judge Anne Shields allowed Santos to be released on a $500,000 bond that would be cosigned by three different suretors who would guarantee the bail funds.
The names of those bail sponsors weren't disclosed at the arraignment hearing. And the bond documents haven't appeared on the public court docket in the two weeks since — a departure from normal practice in criminal cases.
In a letter filed to court Wednesday, Dana R. Green, a lawyer for The New York Times, said the court held another secret hearing with the sponsors.
"It is our understanding that the Court also held at least one subsequent hearing with the suretors," Green wrote. "However, it appears these bond proceedings were not open to the public, and no record of the hearing appears in the docket."
It's unclear whether the hearing was overseen by Shields or US District Judge Joanna Seybert, to whom Santos's case has since been assigned. The Times's letter asked Seybert to unseal any bond records, as well as the transcript of the sealed hearing with the bail sponsors.
Criminal defendants sometimes ask judges to keep the names and other personal details of their bond sponsors under seal. Attorneys in the criminal case against Sam Bankman-Fried asked the judge overseeing his case to keep secret the names of the two people guaranteeing his $250 million bond package.
After a group of news organizations — including Insider — asked the judge to unseal their names, arguing they were in the public interest, the judge ultimately made the names public. Bankman-Fried's bond guarantors are Larry Kramer and Andreas Paepcke — both have ties to Stanford University, which employs his parents.
Unlike in the Bankman-Fried case, there's no public record that Santos's attorney asked for the bail-sponsor names to remain sealed. Santos's attorney, Joseph Murray, and a spokesperson for the US Attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York declined to comment.
The secrecy surrounding the identities of the three guarantors means that the public has no way of knowing who is ensuring that Santos, an elected official, is allowed to stay out of jail ahead of a trial on the criminal charges against him.
"The public interest in openness is particularly strong in this case. The surety records relate to three individuals who have committed large sums of money to ensure that Rep. Santos can remain at liberty, pending further proceedings," Green wrote in her Wednesday letter. "This presents an obvious opportunity for political influence, given Rep. Santos's elected position and his dependence on these suretors."
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