MINNEAPOLIS — The former Minnesota GOP operative charged with sex trafficking has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, claiming he was unconstitutionally and selectively prosecuted in federal court instead of state court based on his “socio-economic status and prominent public profile.”
Anton Lazzaro has been jailed in Sherburne County since his arrest on August 12, 2021. Federal prosecutors accuse Lazzaro of recruiting six girls under 18 years old to have sex in exchange for gifts and money. A 19-year-old woman, Gisela Medina, is charged with helping Lazzaro recruit the girls.
In his motion to dismiss the indictment, Lazzaro’s attorney Zachary Newland argues that the federal law used to prosecute Lazzaro generally involves "force, fraud, threats, or coercion, and the selling of females in an exclusive, prearranged, cash-for-sex operation."
Newland said that was not the case with Lazzaro, who was involved in consensual relationships with teens older than 16, the age of consent in Minnesota.
"Never has the government gone after a 29-year old engaging in consensual relationships with young women for sex trafficking based on the theory that giving gifts (admittedly expensive ones) to his dates amounted to a commercial sex act. The prosecution of Mr. Lazzaro is unprecedented in this sense and certainly a first in this district," Newland wrote in the motion.
According to a separately-filed federal lawsuit, Lazzaro offered one alleged victim and her father $1,000 to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which they refused.
After federal agents raided Lazzaro's downtown Minneapolis penthouse in December 2020 they seized his Ferrari, $370,000 in cash, numerous electronic devices as well as foreign currency and gold bars.
The government returned the seized money and precious metals to Lazzaro's attorneys months later, according to court filings.
While arguing for Lazzaro to remain incarcerated until his trial, prosecutors noted that he has a net worth of more than $2 million, including money held offshore.
The legal argument Newland makes in favor of dismissal is that the decision to prosecute an individual cannot be made on a classification such as race, religion or affluence. Newland cited several instances where prosecutors and courtroom witnesses focused on Lazzaro's wealth.
"In short, the government has taken every opportunity it can in this case to highlight and focus on Mr. Lazzaro’s wealth as part of their prosecution. Mr. Lazzaro’s prominent public profile from his political activities certainly did not help to make the target on his back any smaller for the government," Newland wrote.
Newland goes on to say that Lazzaro likely "fanned the flames" by trying to contact and meet with the FBI in the days and weeks before his arrest to provide them information about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. Lazarro launched a website that included the information about Omar he wished to share, which includes claims she married her brother.
The U.S. Government has not yet responded to Lazzaro's motion to dismiss the indictment.
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