Florida authorities are trying to determine whether Christian Ziegler, the embattled head of the Florida Republican Party, engaged in “video voyeurism” by filming a sexual encounter with a woman without her consent.
The new investigation, which was undertaken based on a police affidavit unsealed earlier this week and obtained by the Florida Trident, is the latest chapter in the ongoing sex scandal roiling the Florida Republican Party. At its center are Christian Ziegler; his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder and crusading Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler; and an unnamed woman who has accused Christian Ziegler of raping her in October, and with whom the couple had engaged in a previous sexual encounter. So far, no criminal charges have been filed against Christian Ziegler, and he has denied the claims made by the accuser.
According to the Florida Trident:
In a police interview on Nov. 2, Ziegler claimed the encounter was consensual and showed detectives a two-and-a-half minute video of the sex act he’d taken on his iPhone, according to the new affidavit.
Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, told police during the same interview the woman sent an Instagram message to Ziegler shortly after the sexual encounter asking him if he’d shown the video to Bridget Ziegler. Byrd said the message was sent in “vanish mode.”
The woman, however, told police she never sent such an Instagram message and had no knowledge Ziegler had recorded the encounter. Bridget Ziegler also said she knew nothing about the video, Sarasota police Det. Megan Buck wrote in the affidavit.
Based on the affidavit, a Florida circuit judge has issued a search warrant for Ziegler’s Instagram account. In the state of Florida, “video voyeurism” is defined as when a person “intentionally uses or installs an imaging device to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person’s knowledge and consent, who is dressing, undressing, or privately exposing the body, at a place and time when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy” for either the viewer’s own or someone else’s “amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person.” A third-degree felony, the crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Even before these allegations, the Florida Republican Party had already attempted to distance itself from its chair. In an emergency meeting on December 17, it voted to strip Ziegler of his power and reduce his salary to $1. Despite the board’s unusual move and pressure from former allies including Florida Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, Ziegler has not indicated any plans to resign.
Bridget Ziegler has similarly resisted calls for her resignation from the Sarasota School Board, even after the board voted 4 to 1 in favor of a resolution requesting her to step down.