The chair of the Florida Republican Party has been accused of raping a woman who he and his wife, the co-founder of “parent’s rights” group Moms for Liberty, were reportedly in a long-term consensual relationship with.
Christian Ziegler is under investigation for alleged sexual battery, according to a heavily-redacted report provided to The Independent by the Sarasota Police Department.
The complaint does not name Mr Ziegler, but his attorney Derek Byrd confirmed to The Independent that the high-ranking Republican official and ally of Governor Ron DeSantis was cooperating with the police investigation and expected to be fully exonerated.
The female complainant had been in a long-term consensual relationship with Mr Ziegler and his wife Bridget, according to the investigative journalism site the Florida Center for Government Accountability, which was first to report on the story.
Citing police sources, the site stated that the incident occurred when Mr Ziegler and the complainant were at the woman’s home on 2 October without Ms Ziegler present.
The words “rape” and “had been sexual battered…on 10/02/2023” were among the few words visible on the redacted police report.
Mr Ziegler’s cellphone was seized after police obtained a search warrant, which he reportedly used to film sexual liaisons between the trio.
The couple are power players in Florida politics, and have both touted their commitment to “family values” while running for public office. Mr Ziegler is a long-term GOP official and former Sarasota County Commissioner who was elected chair of the state party in February.
Bridget Ziegler is a former school board official who co-founded the “parent’s rights” group Moms For Liberty in 2021.
The right-wing activists initially focused on anti-Covid lockdown measures but have since expanded nationwide on a platform of trying to combat “gender ideology” and “critical race theory” in schools.
Moms for Liberty was at the forefront of efforts to pass Florida’s “don’t say gay bill”, and was named an “anti-government extremist” organisation by the Southern Poverty Law Center in June.
Ms Ziegler received Mr DeSantis’ personal endorsement for her Sarasota school board seat earlier this year. She was also appointed by the governor to the newly-formed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, after he rescinded Disney’s special district status after a political fight with the Magic Kingdom.
Ms Ziegler did not respond to multiple text and email requests for comment by The Independent.
In a statement, Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried called on Mr Ziegler to resign immediately “given the “severity of the criminal allegations”.
“As leaders in the Florida GOP and Moms for Liberty, the Zieglers have made a habit out of attacking anything they perceive as going against ‘family values’ — be it reproductive rights or the existence of LGBTQ+ Floridians. The level of hypocrisy in this situation is stunning.”
She applauded the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a “political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler”.
“Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously,” said Ms Fried said.
Mr Byrd, the attorney representing Mr Ziegler, told The Independent he was confident that no charges would be filed against his client.
“Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain. I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded.”