Lazzaro found guilty on all counts in federal sex trafficking trial

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It took a federal jury two hours to hand down a guilty verdict against Anton “Tony” Lazzaro in his sex trafficking trial.

The jury convicted him on one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and five counts of sex trafficking of a minor on Friday after a two-week-long trial.

Lazzaro sat quietly with his attorneys as Judge Patrick J. Schiltz read the verdict. At times, he softly shook his head and lowered his eyes.

Prosecutors, who spoke shortly after the verdict was read, said Lazzaro is “a danger to any family with a daughter” and said the evidence showed he preyed on young women.

“Anton Lazzaro was Minnesota’s Jeffrey Epstein, and now he’s going to prison for a very long time,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Melinda Williams said during a news conference.

Prosecutors say Lazzaro used his wealth and political status to lure minor girls to his luxury condo in downtown Minneapolis, where he offered them cash in exchange for sex.

Several of those victims sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery as the verdict was read.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger applauded the victims who came forward to testify during the trial.

“Phones, texts, pictures are all now part of every case that we do, and they were important as you saw in the courtroom part of this case, but let’s not discount what live testimony by brave young women will do because that’s always the backbone of any case,” Luger said.

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Lazzaro, 32, admitted to having sex with five high school-aged girls but denied paying them for sex.

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Lazzaro said he is “extremely disappointed” in the jury’s decision and will be appealing the conviction.

“Mr. Lazzaro continues to believe he was selectively prosecuted for his political activities,” it read in part.

Lazzaro plans to appeal the conviction.

A sentencing date has yet to be set. The jury will be back in court on Monday morning to decide which of Lazzaro’s possessions that were seized by investigators will be forfeited to the government.

While it’s ultimately up to the judge to decide how long Lazzaro will spend in prison, Luger’s office said it will ask for a strenuous sentence.

Lazzaro’s indictment sent shockwaves through the Minnesota Republican Party, particularly due to his alleged ties to then-Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

Carnahan would eventually resign amid immense pressure from her own party, including four of her party executives. Carnahan told our Chief Political Reporter Tom Hauser at the time she had no idea about the crimes Lazzaro is charged with in the case.