Jurors hear opening statements in Lazzaro’s federal sex trafficking trial

(ABC 6 News) – Members of a federal jury were sworn in Wednesday morning as the trial for 32-year-old Anton “Tony” Lazzaro, who is charged with sex trafficking and obstruction, officially got underway.

As previously reported by Hubbard affiliate 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, a panel of 16 jurors were chosen Tuesday, with four of those serving as alternates while 12 people deliberate. Another 15 prospective jurors were dismissed for cause.

Judge Patrick Schlitz swore in the jurors and provided instructions shortly after 9 a.m.

Opening statements from Attorney Laura Provinzino wrapped up after roughly an hour, where it was alleged Lazzaro “paid tens of thousands of dollars to have sex with minor girls. That’s a crime.”

In addition, photos of Lazzaro’s condo were provided, which showed photos of Lazzaro with celebrities and prominent politicians, ornate gold ceiling and floor to ceiling windows.

One of the alleged victims is expected to testify of what happened while she was at his condo, and Gisela Castro Medina – a co-conspirator who entered guilty pleas in December to sex trafficking and obstruction – is also expected to testify.

Prosecutors add evidence that will be presented include transactions for Uber and Lyft, text messages, social media messages and more.

Afterwards, the defense opened, saying Lazzaro is “not the cartoon character villain that the government portrayed in their opening”, with attorney Thomas Beito describing Lazzaro’s childhood and family.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Kirsten Swanson says Beito briefly spoke about Lazzaro’s interest and connection to politics, saying he volunteered for Mitt Romney’s campaign and didn’t mention Lazzaro’s involvement in politics or political donations in Minnesota. Lazzaro’s arrest rocked the Republican Party in the state, leading to the return of thousands of dollars in campaign cash and the resignation of former party chair Jennifer Carnahan.

Beito also briefly discussed his defense tactic, saying Lazzaro “ended up paying people – a lot of people – just to hang out with him. Some of them he ends up having sex with.” The defense also said this wasn’t sex trafficking.

“Those young ladies were there because they wanted to be. And at the end of the evidence, you will see Tony is not guilty of trafficking anyone,” said Beito at the end of his opening statements.

This story first appeared on KSTP-TV.