SCOTUS decision may protect George Santos from legal repercussions

Just the News has published a report arguing that a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2012 may protect U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) from legal punishment. 

The case is United States v. Alvarez. First, though, let’s take a look at what is going on with Santos, the incoming Republican congressman who managed in the midterm elections to flip a congressional seat in Long Island, New York.

Background

In December, the New York Times published a report claiming that Santos essentially lied about several facts in his professional biography. This includes facts about where he went to college and where he worked.

Santos just recently admitted that the contents of his biography may not be entirely accurate. He, for example, admitted that he never worked directly for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Santos, though, blamed the problem on a “poor choice of words.”

“My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry,” Santos said.

An investigation has begun

Santos has been facing a substantial backlash with some calling for him to resign in advance from Congress or, at the very least, for him to be subject to an investigation.

Fox News reports that District Attorney Anne Donnelly of Nassau County, New York, has now opened such an investigation.

Donnelly put out a statement, saying:

The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-Elect Santos are nothing short of stunning. The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress. No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.

Will U.S. v. Alvarez save him?

Just the News suggests that this 2012 Supreme Court case could be a “major roadblock” in efforts to prosecute Santos for his actions here. According to the outlet:

The Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which criminalized false statements about earning a military medal, was unconstitutional for violating the free speech protections under the First Amendment.

Just the News goes on to explain, however:

[L]awmakers responded to the ruling by revising the Stolen Valor Act to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision [such that it] criminalizes false claims about having a military medal if the claims are made with the intention of gaining a tangible benefit or something of value by fraud.

It is unclear how this all would apply to the situation with Santos. But, Just the News adds that “what’s broadly accepted is that the Alvarez ruling still applies broadly to false claims with few exceptions.”

“I will be good”

While it remains unclear what will come of all of this from a legal perspective, what is clear is that Santos has no plans to give up his congressional seat.

“I am not a criminal,” Santos said. “This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success.”

“I will be effective. I will be good,” he added.

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