When George Santos was allowed out on bail while awaiting trial, it wasn’t a surprise. He has no criminal record. These are nonviolent charges. And in spite of many a Twitter conspiracy theory, he’s not actually a flight risk. The catch is that, like most grifters who are near their end, he appears to be broke. Yet someone paid his sizable bail.
Some major news outlets have filed in court to try to obtain the name(s) of who paid Santos’ bail, arguing that the public has the right to know. After all, Santos is an elected official who’s only still able to participate in House votes because someone paid his bail. The judge in the case gave Santos a deadline of 5pm on Monday to file a response to the media’s request.
Instead of making a legitimate filing, Santos used the whole thing as an opportunity to grandstand. He baselessly claimed that whoever paid his bail would lose their job and be physically unsafe if their identity were revealed. Santos also specifically stated in the court filing that he would rather sit in jail while awaiting trial than reveal his benefactors’ names.
Here’s the thing about being out on bail while awaiting criminal trial on felony charges: you’re supposed to behave like a saint. You’re supposed to spend every day showing the courts that you deserve the benefit of the doubt, and that you’re not trending toward behavior that would make it impossible for the courts allow you to continue roaming free. You’re particularly expected to treat the court processes with respect. And Santos’ asinine stunt of a court filing – which appears to have been made after the deadline – all but flips the courts the middle finger.
What happens next is complicated. Keep in mind that there are two entirely different legal cases at play here. The media’s court filing to uncover who paid Santos’ bail is entirely separate from the criminal case against Santos. These two different legal proceedings don’t even have the same judge.
Today, Santos was simply supposed to provide his best argument for why he shouldn’t have to reveal who paid his bail. And then the judge in that proceeding is supposed to decide whether or not to order Santos to reveal such information. If Santos refuses, that judge can hold him in contempt and, yes, throw him in jail until he coughs up the names.
Separate from that, the judge in Santos’ criminal trial could look at all of this and decide to revoke Santos’ bail and throw him in jail while he awaits his criminal trial, on the premise that Santos no longer deserves to be out on bail.
Are you confused yet? Good. So am I. But this is what happens when you have civil court proceedings playing out as sideshows to a criminal court proceeding. It all starts to overlap, but they’re still separate proceedings with separate judges, and trying to predicting the outcome just gets you bogged down in procedural nonsense.
I don’t know this is going to play out. But I will say this: given that George Santos very much can’t seem to help himself, there’s a good chance he’ll end up getting his bail revoked at some point. If it doesn’t happen as a result of this round of shenanigans, it’ll be the next round, or the round after that. And this is how the courts prefer to do these things. As of now there’s no hurry to revoke Santos’ bail, because while his behavior is asinine, it’s not egregious. And revoking bail is only supposed to happen once things get egregious.
It’s also worth pointing out that George Santos is not getting any sort of “special treatment” here at all. This is, in fact, exactly how things would be playing out in court if you or I were on trial for the same thing. The courts don’t care if you’re a sitting member of Congress or a hot dog vendor.
Of course we all want Santos’ bail to be revoked as quickly as possible, because that’ll make it impossible for him to keep voting in the House, which means House Republicans will probably reluctantly expel him and take their chances with a special election. But the courts don’t care about that either. The courts aren’t going to revoke Santos’ bail sooner just to get him out of office; that’s not their job. Nor are the courts going to avoid revoking his bail in order to save him from being expelled; that’s not their concern either. But Santos is going to prison at the end of his trial anyway. We’ll seemingly get that special election sooner or later.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report