MINNEAPOLIS — A jury has found Anton "Tony" Lazzaro, a former Republican strategist and donor, guilty on all counts in his high-profile sex trafficking trial.
Jurors took only several hours to return a guilty verdict on conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and five counts of sex trafficking of a minor.
KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse, who's been following the trial from inside the courthouse, said U.S. Attorney Andy Luger and his staff were inside the courtroom when the verdict was read, along with the victims and their families.
Raguse said Lazzaro shook his head as the verdict was read, and at least one victim in the case began to cry.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers delivered their closing arguments Friday morning after witness testimony wrapped up the day before.
Melinda Williams of the U.S. Attorney's office reviewed details and evidence presented during the trial – details the state believes proved Lazzaro is guilty of recruiting and paying underage girls for sex.
"Anton Lazzaro was Minnesota's Jeffrey Epstein and now he is going to prison for a very long time," said Williams at a press conference following the verdict.
"He enticed, recruited and you know he obtained each one of these minors. He had sex with each and every one of them, knowing they were under 18. He bought them. Sex for cash, this for that," Williams added.
Williams reviewed the elements of Lazzaro's alleged crimes that needed to be proved.
"One great thing about jury service is you don't need to check your common sense at the door," Williams said when referring to the defense's claim that what happened between Lazzaro and the alleged victims wasn't commercial sex because the sex and the money payments were two separate unrelated things.
Daniel Gerdts then delivered closing arguments on behalf of Lazzaro's defense.
"The prosecution clearly disapproves of Mr. Lazzaro's playboy lifestyle, and frankly as the father of three daughters, so do I," Gerdts told the jury, "but... the only reason we're here is to determine if he's guilty of sex trafficking. That allegation is unfounded."
After closing arguments, the jury received the case after taking a break for lunch. Nine men and seven women heard testimony throughout the case but four were dismissed as alternates following closing arguments, leaving 12 people to deliberate a verdict.
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