Mar 6, 2024 - News

Former Florida GOP chair won't face video voyeurism charges

Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler addresses attendees at the Florida Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee.

Then-Florida GOP chair Christian Ziegler giving a speech in Kissimmee. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Former Florida GOP chair Christian Ziegler will not face charges over his recording of a sexual encounter with a woman who accused him of assaulting her, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Why it matters: The allegations against Ziegler stymied his rise in Republican politics and led to his ouster as state party chair, but he now emerges from the criminal investigation cleared of charges and claiming vindication.

What they're saying: Ziegler's attorney, Derek Byrd, in a statement said his client is "relieved to be completely cleared of the false allegations and any criminal wrongdoing."

  • He added that "many" had rushed to judge Ziegler, "damaging his family, career, and reputation throughout this process."

Driving the news: In a memo explaining their decision, prosecutors said the alleged victim's "inability to recall whether she consented" to the video recording and inconsistencies in her account led them to clear Ziegler.

Catch up quick: The Sarasota Police Department launched a sexual battery investigation in November after the accuser, who said she'd been in a sexual relationship with Ziegler and his wife, told police that Ziegler assaulted her at her home.

  • Ziegler told detectives the sex was consensual and he had recorded the encounter.
  • The video led detectives to believe the interaction "was likely consensual," SPD said, but the agency found probable cause that Ziegler had recorded it without the woman's permission. They forwarded the case to the 12th Circuit State Attorney's Office.

Zoom in: Inconsistencies emerged when prosecutors interviewed the victim, according to the memo released Wednesday.

  • The victim incorrectly remembered details about the sexual encounter, such as where in her home it took place, the memo said.
  • She also said she had been drinking alcohol the night it occurred and couldn't remember "many details," prosecutors wrote.
  • Per the memo, she said she "could have consented to the video being taken — she is simply unable to recall one way or another."

Context: Prosecutors said they found no evidence Ziegler's accuser had any "financial, political, or malicious personal motivation" for reporting the alleged assault.

  • The memo described her as "completely cooperative" with investigators and ascribed inconsistencies in her account to "intoxication and trauma."
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