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Legal analysis: Anton Lazzaro case

The former GOP strategist's attorney hinted that their defense will be that the sex was consensual. Will that hold up?

MINNEAPOLIS — After a four-and-a-half hour court hearing Tuesday, a federal judge decided Anton Lazzaro will stay in jail until his trial.

The GOP strategist is charged with sex trafficking, and during the hearing we learned a lot of new disturbing details.

These details came out while the two sides were arguing whether Lazzaro should receive bail or not, and we also received a preview of his defense.

While testifying in Anton Lazzaro's detention hearing, Officer Brandon Brugger testified that in the alleged sex trafficking conspiracy, Lazzaro was the "sex buyer" and Gisela Castro-Media was "his co-conspirator and recruiter."

Officer Brugger said the 19-year-old University of St. Thomas student would search Instagram and Snapchat for teenage girls, whom the 30-year-old Lazzaro would then send Ubers to pick up and bring to his downtown condo to have sex for money.

In analyzing the public details of this case, former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger says those are the elements needed to make this a federal sex trafficking case: the alleged conspiracy and the use of the internet.

"And if there is a website or Instagram or one of those apps that uses the internet, that would give rise to federal violation," Heffelfinger said.

Since it's a federal case, the stakes are high. The defendants could face up to life in prison if found guilty.

Lazzaro's attorney pointed out the age of consent for sex in Minnesota is 16, and he hinted that will be the crux of his defense. He also got Officer Brugger to admit that one of the girls tried to extort Lazzaro.

Heffelfinger says it's different under federal law when commercial sex is alleged.

"Eighteen is the age that is the dividing line between a consensual act and non-consensual act," Heffelfinger said.

Despite all these new details, there is still a lot we don't know. The prosecutor talked about Lazzaro producing porn in his condo and running an internet porn channel, but we don't know yet if that had anything to do with these underage girls in the federal case.

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