Rape accusation details revealed in search warrant records against Florida GOP chairman

The woman accusing Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler of sexual assault told police she had planned to have sex with him and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, but called it off when Bridget couldn’t make it, according to a newly released search warrant affidavit.

The woman, whom Ziegler claimed to have known for 20 years in a message detailed in the warrant, told Sarasota police she “was sexually involved one time over a year ago” with Ziegler and his wife, a Sarasota School Board member who helped start the conservative organization that advocates for more parental control and traditional values in public schools.

The search warrant affidavit offers the most detailed public account yet of the incident, which has roiled Florida GOP leadership and led to calls for Ziegler to resign. The documents were shared with the Miami Herald by the Florida Center for Government Accountability, which uncovered the sex assault allegations.

The victim said she had agreed to have a second sexual encounter with the couple on Oct. 2, according to the affidavit, which was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel and ABC Action News in Tampa. But when Bridget Ziegler was unable to make it, the woman told investigators she canceled the plans, texting Christian Ziegler that she was “mostly in it for” his wife.

Read for yourself: Here’s what the search warrant affidavit in Ziegler sex assault case says

Minutes after the woman canceled, she opened her front door to walk her dog, where she claims to have seen Christian Ziegler standing in the hallway outside of her apartment, according to the affidavit. He then proceeded to enter her apartment, where he allegedly raped her.

Ziegler’s attorney has said he did nothing wrong and will be “completely exonerated.”

With his attorney present, Christian Ziegler told detectives that the Oct. 2 encounter was consensual and that he recorded it. He said he initially deleted the video but then uploaded it to his Google Drive after learning of the allegation. Police said in the affidavit that they had not recovered the video.

According to the affidavit, the victim called her sister after the alleged assault and went to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where a sexual assault kit was performed.

The alleged assault was reported to police two days after the encounter on Oct. 4. Audio of a 911 call from that day reveals that a friend of the victim had asked law enforcement to perform a wellness check on the woman after she reportedly failed to show up to work for two days.

“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 caller told the dispatcher, according to audio of the 911 call that was obtained by the Florida Trident, a watchdog news outlet that first broke the news that police were investigating the sexual battery allegation against Ziegler.

The affidavit then recounts a series of messages and phone calls between Christian Ziegler and the woman. According to the affidavit, the victim said that Ziegler liked to contact her through Instagram because he “conceals the messages using vanish mode.” The calls were recorded.

In one call, the victim expressed that Ziegler had “hurt her” and that she was deeply upset at what had happened during the encounter. In a separate call, she told Ziegler directly that he had sexually assaulted her.

“ ‘Those are big words, please don’t, no I didn’t,’ ” Ziegler responded, according to the affidavit.“ ‘You invited me in, that’s it. I did not at all, and I never want you to feel that way.’ ”

The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed against Christian Ziegler. His lawyer Derek Byrd issued a statement on Thursday saying that Ziegler was cooperating with investigators and predicting that he would ultimately be exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Still, the allegations have cast a shadow over the Zieglers, one of Florida’s most influential Republican couples.

Bridget Ziegler is a Sarasota School Board member and a co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a conservative organization that has gained national attention while advocating for more parental control and traditional values in public schools.

Bridget Ziegler speaks at the Sarasota and Manatee Republican Parties candidates rally at Robarts Arena in Sarasota on Saturday, July 16, 2022.
Bridget Ziegler speaks at the Sarasota and Manatee Republican Parties candidates rally at Robarts Arena in Sarasota on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

Christian Ziegler, as Florida GOP chairman, is tasked with guiding the party through the state’s 2024 presidential primary, when two Floridians — former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis — will be on the ballot.

Ziegler’s future at the helm of the Florida Republican Party, however, is facing a real challenge. On Thursday, shortly after a debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, DeSantis told reporters that Ziegler should step down from the chairmanship amid the investigation.

“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing given the gravity of those situations, and so I think that he should step aside,” DeSantis said. “I think he should tend to that.”