Joseph W. Murray, attorney for Rep. George Santos, arrives at...

Joseph W. Murray, attorney for Rep. George Santos, arrives at Federal Court on May 10, in Central Islip. Credit: Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago

The architecture of our criminal justice system was designed to ensure an open and transparent process. Flowing from that is the public's right to know the details about bail set for defendants, all the more so in the case of Rep. George Santos. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields made the right call Tuesday in reversing her earlier decision to keep secret the identities of individuals who guaranteed the $500,000 bail that allowed Santos to remain free and continue to serve in Congress. Santos is being given a few days to appeal the decision. If he wins, the public still must be told why such an extraordinary exception is necessary to protect those willing to forfeit a half-million dollars if the House member known to the world as a lying fraud fails to return to court.

Media organizations, including Newsday, sought the release of the names after the magistrate honored Santos' request to have them sealed during negotiations for his arraignment proceedings last month. Attorney Joseph W. Murray, who represents Santos, stated that the mysterious guarantors needed to be protected because the media frenzy surrounding Santos' arrest made one of three "financially responsible" co-signers required by the judge to back away. Murray warned the remaining ones might now withdraw without anonymity. 

Murray said there are individuals "waiting to pounce" and that the guarantors "are likely to suffer great distress, may lose their jobs and, God forbid, may suffer physical injury." But he provided scant evidence of that Monday in his legal filing, other than some juvenile rants in emails and voicemails to his office — the usual travails of modern-day public life.

The congressman now says he would rather go to jail than have the names of the individuals released, but that claim has the distinctly pungent Santos smell to it. And if Santos succeeds in getting new backers comfortable being on the record, the court should still release the names of the original guarantors. 

The House Ethics Committee wants the same information from Santos, stating in a May 16 letter that as part of its investigation it must determine "whether you may have solicited or received an improper gift in connection with the bond sureties." To see whether there was another Santos grift going on, Congress directed him not to destroy or alter any documents or communications about his dealings. 

The 13-count indictment alleges Santos defrauded the public in his federal campaign filings and pocketed COVID-19 unemployment money while he was getting a six-figure paycheck — at the same time he was deceiving voters in the Third Congressional District with his fictional biography. Santos has also claimed he was the target of an assassination attempt and that he was mugged in daylight on Fifth Avenue and 55th St. with the assailants taking his watch, shoes and briefcase. No police report was filed.

Santos' life is a narrative of gaming the system. The federal court system shouldn't give him another opportunity.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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