Details of sexual assault allegation against Florida Republican Party chairman add to partisan turmoil

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 relates that a woman claims that the president, Christian Ziegler, assaulted her in his apartment in October. She appeared in a Florida court as part of a court order request seeking access to electronic communications and recordings on Mr. Ziegler’s Google account.

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

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

Mrs. Ziegler said in an interview with authorities that she and her husband had been involved in a sexual encounter with the woman more than a year ago, according to the affidavit. When the woman learned that Ziegler would not be present at the October meeting, she said she changed her mind and canceled the appointment with Ziegler, according to the affidavit. But the woman said Ziegler came to her apartment uninvited and sexually assaulted her.

Ziegler told authorities the encounter was consensual and that he took video of it, according to the affidavit. Investigators have been unable 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 Sunday evening.

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

On Oct. 4, the woman reported that 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 Ziegler after the encounter, she told him she “did not agree with what happened,” according to the affidavit. Mr. Ziegler repeatedly said she was his friend and tried to change the subject.

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 no, no.” “I did not do it,” the affidavit said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican running for president, has called on Ziegler to resign. “I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation given the seriousness of those situations, so I think he should step aside,” DeSantis said late last week, adding that he knew the Zieglers well and hoped the charges They were fake. “He is innocent until proven guilty, but we cannot have a party president who is under that kind of scrutiny.”

In an email to members of the Florida Republican Party on Saturday, Ziegler said, “We have a country to save and I will not allow false accusations of a crime to put that mission on the back burner while I wait for this process to end wrap.” She added that he was being attacked by liberal activists and that Ms. Ziegler “backs me up 150 percent.”

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

The Zieglers are considered a political power 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 DeSantis last year.

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