Police obtained video Republican Party of Florida Chair Christian Ziegler took of a sexual encounter with a woman accusing him of rape.
Law enforcement sources described the tape to the Florida Center for Government Accountability, which broke news of the criminal investigation, the video could complicate the case against Ziegler. That’s because of some key details that appear to dispute events as described by the Sarasota woman leveling accusations.
The video does confirm some parts of her account, including that Ziegler had sex with her over a bar stool in her apartment.
Investigation documents revealed the woman told police Ziegler and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, had arranged a threesome the day of the encounter. But text messages show Christian Ziegler informed the woman by text that Bridget could not make it, and the woman told him she was no longer interested. “Sorry I was mostly in for her,” the woman texted. But surveillance cameras show Christian Ziegler showed up at the apartment complex five minutes after that text anyway, and he admitted to police he had sex with the woman but claimed it was consensual.
New surveillance video, though, reportedly counters the woman’s claim that Christian Ziegler came into the apartment only after she opened the door while trying to take her dog for a walk. Sarasota Police now have video showing he knocked and was allowed in, sources told the Florida Center.
“The video of the sex act is brief in duration and the victim can be heard telling Ziegler to climax in her mouth rather than on her new shirt,” the sources said.
The nature of the video could complicate prosecution, but significant questions about consent remain.
Besides the woman telling Christian Ziegler she was no longer interested in meeting for a hookup, the accuser also told police she “was not in a place to consent because it was her day off and she had been drinking Tequila all day,” according to a search warrant released by police.
It’s also unclear if Ziegler had consent to film the encounter on his cell phone. Ziegler told police he initially deleted the video but later uploaded it to Google Drive. Police needed the warrant to obtain the video from Google.
Records show communication between the woman and Christian Ziegler as well where she tells him she was “not okay” with the encounter. “That was not cool and you didn’t bring her and then did that to me,” she said in a message to Ziegler at one point. She also said she could not work for a period of weeks after the encounter. In recorded messages, she accused him of sexual assault and he denied that. In that conversation, he also offered the woman financial help.
Regardless of whether he faces criminal charges, the allegations largely upended the Zieglers political stature in the state and nation.
Bridget Ziegler, while not accused of a crime, has seen calls to resign from the School Board, while Moms For Liberty has issued statements distancing themselves from the couple. The Leadership Institute, a conservative think tank, has parted ways with Bridget Ziegler, who directed a national School Boards Program for the group.
Meanwhile, the executive committee for the Republican Party of Florida has taken steps toward potentially expelling Christian Ziegler as state chair. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close ally of the Zieglers, has called for Christian Ziegler to step down, as have members of the Florida Cabinet and leaders of the Florida Legislature.