Attorneys for a Minneapolis GOP political donor facing federal sex trafficking charges allege that law enforcement improperly listened in on privileged jail phone conversations between the man and his lawyers.
Anton "Tony" Lazzaro has been held in Sherburne County jail since August while awaiting trial on 10 counts of child sex-trafficking charges. Daniel Gerdts, an attorney for Lazzaro, asked U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz to dismiss the indictment or "impose other appropriate sanctions," which could include barring agents, prosecutors or staff aware of the calls' contents from further involvement in the case.
Lazzaro is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of obstruction of justice. He was charged alongside former University of St. Thomas student Gisela Castro Medina. Medina is accused of recruiting underage girls for a sex-trafficking conspiracy she participated in with Lazzaro. Both have pleaded not guilty.
In a motion filed late Monday, Gerdts wrote that records obtained from the company that manages Sherburne County's jail phone system showed FBI and state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents accessed and listened to seven privileged calls between Lazzaro and his attorneys.
Gerdts said that the interception of privileged attorney-client communication violated Lazzaro's Fifth Amendment right to a fair proceeding and Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel.
"The Court should impose sanctions, up to and including dismissal of the indictment, for this governmental misconduct," he wrote.
The FBI declined to comment and a BCA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney's Office will be filing a response with the court but a spokesperson otherwise declined to comment.
Gerdts wrote that the calls in question involved discussions of defense strategy and preparation for trial.
"Once Mr. Lazzaro and his attorneys became aware that their calls were not private, it immediately inhibited the effectiveness of their telephonic communications," he wrote. "The chilling effect in this case substantially inhibited effective attorney-client communications because in-person visits at the jail have not been permitted during the pandemic, leaving telephone calls as the primary method of attorney-client communications."
This is the latest effort by Lazzaro to dismiss the charges against him. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Schultz recommended last month that Lazzaro's previous motions to suppress evidence and dismiss multiple charges be denied. Schiltz will rule on those motions on July 25, according to the docket schedule.