by Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix
January 19, 2024
The Sarasota Police Department announced Friday that it had dropped its investigation into allegations that former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler had committed sexual battery.
However, the department said in a news release that it has prepared a probable cause affidavit for the crime of federal “video voyeurism” to the State Attorney’s Office for further review.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Republican Party of Florida voted to remove Ziegler from his position as party chair and later selected Evan Power to succeed Ziegler.
The investigation involved allegations that Ziegler had sexually assaulted a woman previously involved in a three-way relationship with himself and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, a Moms for Liberty co-founder and Sarasota County School Board member, according to a search warrant affidavit.
“During the investigation, the detectives conducted nearly one dozen interviews, issued numerous subpoenas, reviewed hours of surveillance footage, and searched through a substantial number of images and videos on cell phones and their respective cloud data backups,” according to a news release Friday from the Sarasota Police Department.
“As a result of the lengthy investigation, Sarasota Police detectives found video evidence that on October 2nd, 2023, a sexual encounter occurred between the victim and Christian Ziegler. Ziegler recorded the encounter on his cell phone. The video showed that the encounter was likely consensual. Therefore, detectives were unable to develop probable cause to charge Ziegler with Sexual Battery.”
Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying: “Since day one, we have been confident Mr. Ziegler would be exonerated from these baseless allegations. He has been completely honest, forthright, and has been fully cooperative with law enforcement at every stage of this investigation.
“At the beginning of the investigation, we asked and warned the public to withhold judgment of criminal wrongdoing until a thorough investigation of the facts was complete. Sadly, many people and media outlets refused to give Mr. Ziegler that courtesy. That was unfair and unfortunate and has caused irreparable harm to Mr. Ziegler’s reputation, his personal life, professional life, and his family.”
Sarasota Police also said in its statement that “the victim advised Sarasota Police detectives that she was unaware and did not consent to being video recorded. On January 19th, 2024, the investigators prepared a probable cause affidavit for the felony crime of Video Voyeurism against Christian Ziegler. This affidavit was subsequently sent to the State Attorney’s Office for further review.”
Byrd says he believes that Christian Ziegler will be exonerated on that charge as well.
Top Florida Republicans, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, immediately called for Ziegler’s resignation as party chair shortly after the Florida Trident reported on Nov. 30, 2023 that Zeigler was under criminal investigation after a woman had filed a complaint with the Sarasota Police Department alleging that he had raped her.
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