Jan 19, 2024

Ex-Florida GOP chair won't face sexual battery charge, but voyeurism allegation under review

A man in a navy suit, red tie and American flag pin speaking from a lectern.

Ziegler addresses attendees at the Florida Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sarasota police closed a sexual battery investigation into former Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler, but authorities will continue to consider a possible charge of video voyeurism.

Driving the news: A video of a sexual encounter between Ziegler and the woman who accused him of sexual battery led detectives to believe the interaction "was likely consensual," police spokesperson Cynthia McLaughlin said Friday in a news release.

  • Detectives showed the video to the woman, who told detectives "that she was unaware and did not consent" to being recorded during the Oct. 2 encounter, per the release.
  • Police found probable cause for a charge of video voyeurism and forwarded the case to prosecutors to decide whether to formally charge Ziegler with the felony crime.

What they're saying: "Since day one, we have been confident Mr. Ziegler would be exonerated from these baseless allegations," Ziegler attorney Derek Byrd said in a statement, adding his client "has been completely honest, forthright, and has been fully cooperative" with police.

  • "While we are disappointed that the Sarasota Police Department 'punted' the decision on the remaining portion of the case to the State Attorney's office, we strongly believe that the State Attorney will not prosecute Mr. Ziegler for any crime," he added.

Catch up quick: The police investigation began Oct. 4 and came to light in November after a report from the Florida Trident.

Meanwhile, Ziegler's wife, Bridget Ziegler, has resisted calls to resign from the Sarasota County School Board.

  • While she was not involved in the investigation into her husband, the woman who accused him said she had a consensual sexual relationship with both of the Zieglers.
  • Critics have accused her of hypocrisy, saying her alleged relationship with the woman doesn't square with her support of policies that restrict LGBTQ+ rights.
  • Bridget Ziegler is also a founder of the conservative parent group Moms for Liberty, which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently labeled a far-right extremist group.
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