Former Congressman George Santos leaves the Alfonse D’Amato Federal Courthouse...

Former Congressman George Santos leaves the Alfonse D’Amato Federal Courthouse in Central Islip in December. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Federal prosecutors asked a judge to deny a motion by former Rep. George Santos to unseal statements from prosecution witnesses, arguing in court papers that the request would expose the witnesses to months of invasive scrutiny and chill cooperation with prosecutors in cases involving public figures.

Santos’ motion to make the statements public, the prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York said, is an improper attempt to influence public opinion — and potential jurors — before Santos’ upcoming federal trial.

“Santos’s request to de-designate (witness statements) is a transparent effort to litigate this case in the media, not in the courtroom, and to improperly influence both the jury pool and potential trial witnesses,” the prosecutors said in court papers filed Wednesday. “The court should not condone such a tactic.”

Santos’ attorneys — Andrew Mancilla, Joseph Murray and Robert Fantone — declined to comment on the prosecution’s papers, saying they will respond in a filing on Friday. Santos is due back in court Aug. 14.

Santos, 35, surrendered to federal authorities in May and pleaded not guilty to a 23-count superseding indictment charging him with a variety of fraudulent schemes. Prosecutors have alleged Santos fraudulently received unemployment benefits authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic and lied on his congressional financial disclosure forms.

Prosecutors also alleged he filed fraudulent fundraising reports to obtain financial support for his congressional campaign and stole thousands of dollars from his campaign contributors by charging their credit cards without authorization. Both his campaign treasurer and a fundraiser have pleaded guilty to related federal indictments.

The prosecution’s papers asked U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert to deny Santos’ request for a 30-day delay in the case. The defense “expressed optimism” when they told Seybert at a Jan. 23 hearing that they wanted to focus on plea discussions, but then failed to engage in discussions regarding plea negotiations for more than two months afterward.

Santos’ attorneys, the government’s filing said, did not ask for discovery material beyond records quoted in a superseding indictment until April 8, more than nine months after prosecutors began handing over documents and other evidence.

The government told Seybert that agreeing to Santos’ requests about witness statements would be a setback to law enforcement. “Dissemination would chill the cooperation of witnesses with the government, not only for the three witnesses Santos targets, but also for other witnesses in this case, and for witnesses in other investigations involving public and political figures,” the papers said.

Santos’ attorneys asked Seybert to unseal statements from prosecution witnesses in an April 11 motion, claiming that they show that the disgraced former congressman was unaware of the alleged fraudulent activities of his campaign. They said the statements were “highly exculpatory.”

“[The information] substantially undermines the government’s theory that Santos directed, oversaw, or even had knowledge of the alleged finance misreporting of his campaign,” the defense attorneys said in their motion.

Santos was expelled from Congress on Dec. 1 after a damning House Ethics Committee report found “substantial evidence” that Santos engaged in “unlawful conduct” and knowingly deceived campaign donors “for his own personal financial profit.”

After Santos won the election in November 2022 to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Nassau and Queens, The New York Times published a story detailing Santos' lies about his personal, professional and educational background.

Santos later admitted lying but refused to resign, even after he was indicted. He has recently stated he intends to run as an independent for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Nicholas LaLota (R-Amityville), who helped lead efforts to expel Santos.

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