The sexual battery investigation of Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler began with a 911 call from a friend of the alleged victim who was worried about her well-being, according to a recording of the call obtained by the Florida Trident.
The 911 call, made on October 4 at 2:46 p.m., reveals the caller was concerned about the mental health of the woman, who isn’t being identified due to the nature of the investigation.
“I was hoping to do a wellness on a friend of mine,” the caller began. “She hasn’t shown up for work the past two days and I just got off the phone with her and she sounds drunk and I know she has pain medication on her and she told me that she doesn’t think she can do it anymore.”
The dispatcher then asked questions about the victim’s address, which was redacted, before the caller said the alleged victim had been struggling with addiction that had “gotten worse and worse the last couple of months." Then she relayed the information that kicked off a criminal investigation that is ongoing.
“She won’t answer anyone else at work except for me but she told me she was raped yesterday and that she’s scared to leave her house,” said the caller. “... She’s saying she’s scared that -- the person that raped her came to her house -- that she’s scared to leave.”
The caller then told the dispatcher, “I’m worried about her right now.”
“I have units en route,” said the dispatcher.
The alleged perpetrator is Ziegler, who has yet to publicly comment on the investigation first reported by the Trident on Thursday morning. His attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a written statement Ziegler would be fully exonerated in the investigation.
Sources close to the investigation told the Trident that Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler, who is also an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis and cofounder of the right-wing group Moms For Liberty, had a three-way sexual relationship with the woman prior to the alleged October 2 sexual assault.
A copy of the search warrant involved in the case was released late Friday that substantiated much of the Trident's earlier reporting and added a wealth of new information.
Ziegler, according to the affidavit, had known the woman for 20 years and they had agreed to a tryst at the woman's home on October 2 with Ziegler's wife. When Bridget Ziegler wasn't able to make it, the woman canceled via text to Christian Ziegler, writing that she had been "more in for her," meaning Bridget. She told police that Christian Ziegler came to her home anyway and entered uninvited as she opened the door to walk her dog. Inside, she said he raped her.
In an interview with detectives attended by his attorney, Christian Ziegler admitted he had sex with her that day but said it was consensual sex with the woman. He also admitted that he shot video of the incident, which he said he initially deleted, but later uploaded to a Google Drive. When the affidavit was filed with the court on November 15, police had yet located the video. The contents of the Google Drive was among items seized by police under the warrant, along with his Gmail and iPhone.
According to the affidavit, Bridget Ziegler told detectives she was involved in a sexual encounter with her husband and the woman once over a year ago.
News of the criminal investigation led DeSantis to publicly call for Ziegler to step down from his role at the top of Florida’s Republican Party shortly after the presidential candidate’s debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday night on the Fox News Channel.
“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing, given the gravity of those situations,” DeSantis told reporters. “And so, I think he should step aside. I think he should tend to that. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny. And so, I hope that — I hope the charges aren’t true. I’ve known him, I’ve known Bridget; they’ve been friends. But the mission is more important,”
The criminal investigation, which sources tell the Trident involves video recordings and the seizure of Christian Ziegler’s phone, is ongoing.
Click here to view the search warrant issued in this case.
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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