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Lazzaro trial Day 2: Co-defendant testifies in sex trafficking case

Gisela Castro Medina told jurors that her relationship with the former Republican strategist started by having sex for money and evolved into becoming his recruiter.

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal prosecutors opened Day 2 of the Anton Lazzaro sex trafficking trial by playing what is arguably its strongest card: The defendant's co-conspirator, who had already pleaded guilty in the case and agreed to testify against him. 

Gisele Castro Medina took the stand, telling jurors that her relationship with the former Republican strategist started by having sex with him for money, then morphed into something else. She testified that she "shut it down" the first time Lazzaro asked her to be his "recruiter." 

"I was freaked out," Castro Medina told the courtroom. "I thought this guy was crazy. It was really weird." 

Credit: Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration, L.L.C.
Gisele Castro Medina testified that her relationship with Anton Lazzaro began as a sex-for-money arrangement, but that he soon asked her to recruit young girls for his pleasure.

She said Lazzaro told her someone in California did the same thing for him previously, describing it like matchmaking. When Castro Medina finally agreed to recruit girls for sex, she testified it didn't take long to learn what the defendant liked. 

"Over time I learned he wanted younger girls around 16 and up. I didn’t have a lot of friends much older than me so my age was the cap," she testified. 

"Sixteen to 18 was the cap?," prosecutor Melinda Williams asked. 

"Yes. Preferably white. No tattoos. Very thin," she answered. "What he calls 'broken girls. Sluts. Whores. I was referring to myself as a slut, whore, broken girl," Castro Medina testified. 

"Looking back, what do you think?" Williams asked.

"I think it's disgusting and I think it's horrible and I think it never should have happened," she answered.  

Castro Medina told jurors she has a "difficult" relationship with her own father, so became closer with the defendant. She testified that compliments from Lazzaro were like "a father praising a child. I felt really happy when he approved." She would tell him about her grades at school, etc, looking for validation. Castro Medina also said she was not a big drinker or drug user when she met the defendant but became an alcoholic and addicted to Adderall, which Lazzaro allegedly provided. 

KARE 11's Lou Raguse was in the courtroom and says prosecutors introduced a line of questioning to refute the characterization by Lazzaro's team that he is a socially awkward man who paid people to "hang out" with him during the pandemic. Castro Medina testified that money Lazzaro paid out was because "he was looking for sex," and that she enlisted three male friends of hers to help recruit girls for the defendant, promising to share some of the money Lazzaro gave to her. 

The prosecution dug into detail about communications between Castro Medina and the defendant as she allegedly recruited girls, taught him teen text slang, and worried about getting in trouble for her activities. They then talked about the day in Dec. 2020 when the FBI executed a search warrant on him. Castro Medina told the courtroom Lazzaro told her his meeting with federal authorities did not go well, and promised he would buy her a house and pay for grad school in exchange for her silence. 

 At the time, Castro Medina told the panel, she assured him she loved him and would never do anything to hurt him. "He was my whole life," she testified.


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