At U.S. District Court in Central Islip on June 30, embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos made his second appearance to address a range of criminal charges against him.
Looking subdued and meek in a gray suit and bright red tie, Santos addressed Judge Joanna Seybert only twice, in barely audible responses: “Yes, Your Honor.”
Ryan Harris, the lead federal prosecutor, told Seybert that the government had 86,000 pages of documents to substantiate its case, and that he had provided them to Joseph Murray, Santos’ attorney. Murray, who said he had been working closely with the prosecution, asked Seybert for additional time to review the documents, requesting that the next court date be no earlier than the end of August. The judge agreed, and scheduling Santos’ next appearance for Sept. 7.
In May, Santos was released on a $500,000 bond and surrendered his passport after he pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives. Although he had stated that he would rather face jail time than release the identities of the bond’s co-signers, the court unsealed their identities: Santos’
father, Gercino Dos Santos, and his aunt Elma Santos Preven. Neither secured the bond with cash or property, although both relatives are being held accountable for the congressman’s compliance with the terms of his release.
In recent weeks, Santos has dismissed the charges as a “witch hunt,” and said he would continue to represent his constituents in the 3rd Congressional district. If convicted of just the primary charges, Santos could face up to 20 years in prison.
He declined to address the press following the hearing, and walked with his head down to a parked car. Two unidentified Santos supporters yelled at reporters, alleging mistreatment of Santos as they walked to their cars.
But louder voices from angry constituents, from groups like Concerned Citizens of NY-03 and Empire State Voices, were heard outside the courthouse. Many protesters called for Santos’ resignation while brandishing signs that read, “George Santos lied to us.”
The demonstrators said they weren’t surprised that Santos left without addressing the media or his constituents. “I think honesty matters, and we’re being shortchanged,” Eric Swenson, of Oyster Bay, said. “I want to do all that I can do to make sure that there’s no ‘con’ in Congress. We don’t need someone who’s afraid of their constituents.”
Richard Osthoff, the Navy veteran who accused Santos of stealing money from a fundraiser for his sick dog, has said he would like to see Santos jailed after authorities finish their investigation. When Osthoff contacted Santos three weeks ago to discuss the matter, he said, Santos claimed he didn’t know him.
“You have a dark soul!” Osthoff yelled as Santos walked to his car. “You killed my dog.”
Osthoff said he never met with Santos in person, and that their exchanges were mostly calls and text messages. Osthoff said that Santos looked surprised to see him in the courtroom, and that he caught the attention of Santos’ lawyer as well.
Jody Kass Finkel, a coordinator of Concerned Citizens of NY-03, spoke to reporters after Santos made it clear that he wasn’t going to. Finkel claimed that the Republican Party’s continuing support of Santos is a disgrace.
“So who can fix this, since Kevin McCarthy is too weak to do it?” Finkel said. “The New York state Republicans can make the Santos problem a priority, and force McCarthy and their colleagues in Washington to address it. But so far we have only received lip service.”
Finkel said she didn’t believe Republicans when they said they were outraged and wanted Santos out of Congress. If they really felt that way, she said, they would have expelled him by now.
“We fully expect George Santos to go to prison,” Finkel said. “But that doesn’t solve our immediate problem. We are now six months with the charlatan as our congressman, without any meaningful representation. So why has Santos been allowed to remain in Congress? He serves on no committees — he’s impotent in Congress.”