Christian Ziegler, Florida’s GOP chairman and husband of Sarasota County School Board member and Moms of Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, is under criminal investigation after a woman filed a complaint with the Sarasota Police Department alleging the longtime Republican official had raped her, according to a heavily redacted police report obtained by the Florida Trident.
The complaint was filed on October 4 and the alleged sexual battery occurred inside the woman's home in Sarasota on October 2, according to the report. Among the few words that went unredacted in the report are "rape" and "sexual assault complaint."
The woman, according to sources close to the investigation, alleged that she and both Zieglers had been involved in a longstanding consensual three-way sexual relationship prior to the incident. The incident under investigation by Sarasota police occurred when Christian Ziegler and the woman were alone at the woman's house, without Bridget Ziegler present, the sources conveyed.
Sources also corroborated that a search warrant was executed on Christian Ziegler’s cell phone and that investigators continue to conduct a forensic examination of the electronic device. Christian Ziegler is also alleged to have secretly videotaped the sexual encounters between the couple and the woman, sources said.
The Trident requested the police incident report for the investigation on Sunday. The Sarasota City Attorney’s Office confirmed the existence of the report, but had not supplied it as of press time.
There have been no charges filed in the case and the Trident is unaware whether the woman’s allegations have been substantiated. A voicemail was left with Mr. Ziegler for comment and a message was left at Bridget Ziegler's school board office. Neither had been returned prior to publishing this story.
After our story was published, Christian Ziegler's attorney, Derek Byrd, issued a written statement saying that his client has been "fully cooperative with the Sarasota Police Department" and predicting Ziegler will be "completely exonerated."
“Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain," Byrd said in the statement. "I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded. Out of respect for the investigation, this is all Mr. Ziegler or myself can say at this time.”
The Zieglers are one of Florida’s top political power couples in the GOP. Christian Ziegler is a longtime Republican Party official who served as vice chairman of the state party prior to his election as chair in February. Prior to that, he was a Sarasota County Commissioner who ran on a “family values” platform.
Bridget Ziegler has become a star within the MAGA movement who was personally endorsed for her school board seat by Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who also appointed her in March to the state board that oversees the special district previously overseen by Disney World prior to DeSantis's politically motivated feud with the entertainment company.
She is perhaps best known as the cofounder of the right-wing group Moms for Liberty, which has supported book bans in public schools across the country. Bridget Ziegler personally helped lay the groundwork for DeSantis' Florida Parental Rights In Education Act (known as the "Don't Say Gay" law) that disallows instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through the third grade. She stood behind DeSantis as he signed the bill.
Following in the Moms For Liberty model, Ziegler has been a leading anti-trans activist and "critical race theory" opponent who has said her aim is to bring “religious values" into public schools that she claims are "indoctrination centers for the radical left."
“Bridget Ziegler, we should have her in every county in Florida,” DeSantis said in one speech. “We have to do a better job in these school board races.”
She is currently a salaried vice president at the conservative Leadership Institute, which recently opened an office in Sarasota. At the Institute she oversees a school board training program that she said “teaches trains moms and dads how to run for school board, win, and then govern!”
Christian Ziegler has longstanding ties to both DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who called out Ziegler's name in a recent speech earlier this month during the "Florida Freedom Summit" in Kissimmee and said he was doing a "fantastic job." Ziegler, as the state's GOP chair, has remained officially neutral on the race.
In a written statement, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried called for Christian Ziegler's resignation.
“Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously,” she said. “I applaud the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler, and I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations of criminal behavior. Christian Ziegler can’t possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions. Given the severity of the criminal allegations, I’m calling for his immediate resignation."
Fried stopped short of asking Bridget Ziegler to resign her school board and state seats, but noted the "hypocrisy" of the couple.
“As leaders in the Florida GOP and Moms for Liberty, the Zieglers have made a habit out of attacking anything they perceive as going against ‘family values’ — be it reproductive rights or the existence of LGBTQ+ Floridians," said Fried. "The level of hypocrisy in this situation is stunning.”
This is a developing story that will be updated through the day.
Florida Center for Government Accountability public access director Michael Barfield contributed to the reporting of this story.
About the Author: Bob Norman is an award-winning investigative reporter who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Trident and journalism program director for the Florida Center for Government Accountability. He can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 954-632-4343.
This article first appeared on Florida Center for Government Accountability (FLCGA) and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.
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