Prosecutors introduce new evidence in Lazzaro sex trafficking trial
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After an hours-long delay, prosecutors questioned Anton “Tony” Lazzaro about new evidence they obtained shortly before he returned to the witness stand for a second day.
The former Republican donor and strategist is charged with sex trafficking of minors. Prosecutors allege he used his wealth and political status to lure minor girls to his luxury condo. Five minor girls testified earlier in the trial that Lazzaro paid them for sex.
Before beginning her cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melinda Williams told the court the FBI received a phone call Tuesday night from Lazzaro’s former business partner and friend, who provided photos and videos of the minor girls.
One of the photos, shown to the jury late Tuesday, was of three of the minor girls lying face down in lingerie on Lazzaro’s bed. Lazzaro admitted to taking the photo and told the jury he sent it to people on Snapchat.
“I took the picture to essentially boast to friends,” he said.
In another exchange, Lazzaro told the business partner he had sent an Uber to pick up a group of three girls from a slumber party. He referenced “breaking them in.” The girls were ages 14 and 15 at the time.
“They are quite lovely I must say,” Lazzaro wrote in the text message.
During questions from prosecutors, Lazzaro would often offer long-winded explanations. It led to several tense exchanges, and at one point, Lazzaro was admonished by Judge Patrick Schiltz.
“Let your lawyers do the lawyering,” Schiltz said. “If you continue to do this, I will stop you and correct you in front of the jury.”
Williams, the prosecutor, repeatedly confronted Lazzaro with testimony from the five witnesses who told the jury that he paid them for sex. Each recounted a similar story about how Lazzaro brought them to his downtown Minneapolis condo, gave them alcohol and offered them various amounts of money.
“You paid each of these girls?” Williams asked, attempting to tie the money to the sex.
“I did not pay them,” Lazzaro responded. “I gave them gifts they asked for.”
On Tuesday, Lazzaro admitted to having sex with those minor girls and acknowledged giving them cash and other expensive items, but said it was not in exchange for sex.
Lazzaro also denied using Gisela Castro Medina, his co-defendant, as a recruiter. Castro Medina has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and obstruction and testified against Lazzaro last week.
One of the newly obtained text messages, however, contradicts that testimony, according to prosecutors. Lazzaro wrote to his former business partner, “See why i use gisela/recruiters/sa … saves HOURS and HOURS.”
Castro Medina also testified that Lazzaro used his political connections to impress the young girls she recruited.
On the stand this week, Lazzaro explained that he became involved in politics after moving to Minnesota. His arrest in 2021 generated national attention because of his ties to high-profile GOP leaders. They quickly condemned the allegations and promised to donate Lazzaro’s campaign contributions to charity.