Details of Sexual Assault Allegation Against Florida G.O.P. Chair Add to Party Turmoil newsbhunt


Details of a sexual assault allegation against the chairman of the Florida Republican Party in an affidavit from state authorities are fueling turmoil within the party.

The affidavit recounts that a woman says that the chairman, Christian Ziegler, assaulted her in her apartment in October. It was filed in Florida court as part of a warrant application seeking access to electronic communications and recordings on Mr. Ziegler’s Google account.

A spokeswoman for the Police Department in Sarasota, Fla., confirmed on Thursday that there was an “active investigation” involving Mr. Ziegler. No charges have been filed against him, and he has denied wrongdoing through his lawyer, Derek Byrd, who did not respond on Sunday for a request for comment. In an earlier statement, he said that “we are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated.”

In the affidavit, a written declaration made under oath, a law enforcement officer said that the woman and Mr. Ziegler had known each other for 20 years and that she told the police she had agreed to a sexual encounter on Oct. 2 with Mr. Ziegler and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, an elected member of the Sarasota County School Board and a founder of the right-wing national group Moms for Liberty. (She is no longer one of the organization’s officers.)

Ms. Ziegler said in an interview with the authorities that she and her husband had been involved in one sexual encounter with the woman over a year ago, the affidavit said. When the woman learned that Ms. Ziegler would not be present for the October encounter, the woman said she changed her mind and canceled with Mr. Ziegler, the affidavit said. But the woman said Mr. Ziegler came to her apartment uninvited and sexually assaulted her.

Mr. Ziegler told the authorities that the encounter was consensual and that he took a video of it, the affidavit said. Investigators have not been able to locate the video and have issued a search warrant to Google as part of the affidavit. A Google representative did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday night.

The details from the affidavit, which other news media outlets have published, were first reported by the Florida Center for Government Accountability, which describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and later obtained by The New York Times.

On Oct. 4, the woman reported that Mr. Ziegler had sexually assaulted her, and she was treated and examined at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, according to the affidavit.

In messages between the woman and Mr. Ziegler after the encounter, she told him she was “not okay with what happened,” the affidavit said. Mr. Ziegler repeatedly said that she was his friend and tried to change the topic.

And in phone calls between the woman and Mr. Ziegler, recorded by the woman and detectives, in which she said he had sexually assaulted her, he denied the accusation and told the woman, “Those are big words, please don’t, no I didn’t,” the affidavit said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican who is running for president, has called on Mr. Ziegler to resign. “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,” Mr. DeSantis said late last week, adding that he knew the Zieglers well and hoped that the charges were false. “He’s innocent till proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny.”

In an email to members of the Florida Republican Party on Saturday, Mr. Ziegler said that “we have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up.” He added that he was being targeted by liberal activists and that Ms. Ziegler “is behind me 150 percent.”

Mr. Ziegler was elected chairman this year as top Florida Republicans were debating candidates for the party’s 2024 nomination. He was seen as the choice of former President Donald J. Trump’s allies.

The Zieglers are considered a powerful political couple in Florida, especially in the Sarasota area, which has become a hotbed of conservative activism since the end of the Trump administration. Moms for Liberty campaigned closely with Mr. DeSantis last year.

Patricia Mazzei and Nicholas Nehamas contributed reporting.


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