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Closing arguments set for Friday in Lazzaro sex trafficking trial

Defense attorneys rested their case on behalf of Anton "Tony" Lazzaro after calling two character witnesses to testify Thursday morning.

MINNEAPOLIS — The sex trafficking trial for Anton "Tony" Lazzaro is coming closer to an end after defense attorneys rested their case on behalf of the Republican strategist and donor Thursday morning.

KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse, who's at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis following Lazzaro's trial, tweeted the defense wrapped up around 10 a.m. after two character witnesses testified on Lazzaro's behalf.

One of those witnesses, who became friends with Lazzaro after connecting on an online Amtrak train forum, said of Lazzaro, "I think he's always been very generous to people to help them."

Prosecutors called no rebuttal witnesses, ending the evidence portion of the trial. According to Raguse, attorneys will address some legal issues without the jury present Thursday before closing arguments begin Friday at 9 a.m.

Since the trial got underway on March 22, prosecutors have presented evidence they allege proves Lazzaro recruited and paid underage girls to have sex with him.

While testifying in his own defense, Lazzaro admitted to "hooking up" with some of the alleged victims in the case but claimed he didn't pay them explicitly for it or recruit them. However, text messages presented by prosecutors showed a text message where Lazzaro referred to his co-defendant Gisela Castro Medina as his "recruiter."

When Castro Medina testified on behalf of the prosecution on Thursday, March 23, she told the jury that when she agreed to recruit girls for Lazzaro for sex, she was looking for younger girls between 16 and 18 years old. "Preferably white. No tattoos. Very thin," she testified. "What he calls 'broken girls. Sluts. Whores. I was referring to myself as a slut, whore, broken girl."

Lazzaro denied asking Castro Medina to find him "broken girls," but did admit to transporting girls to his downtown Minneapolis condo. When prosecutors accused him of grooming teenagers by pretending to care about their problems, Lazzaro said he cared about everyone.

Following closing arguments on Friday, the case will go to the jury, which was made up of nine men and seven women. Once closing arguments are finished, four jurors will be dismissed as alternates, leaving 12 people to deliberate a verdict.

Lazzaro faces five counts of sex trafficking of a minor along with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and obstruction.

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