Christian Ziegler, the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party who got booted last month after being accused of raping a woman who had been sexually involved with him and his wife, is now claiming to be the victim of a crime in an effort to fend off the release of information from his cellphone.
The woman reportedly told the police Ziegler “had been sexually battering her for years, and she never felt like she could say no to him.” Ziegler, who was under investigation but hasn’t been charged, said the October encounter when the alleged rape happened was consensual and that he had had consensual sex with the unnamed woman “approximately one dozen times since they first met,” according to police interviews and other records obtained by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Ziegler’s lawyer, Matthew Sarelson, argues that a cellphone video Ziegler took of the encounter that was reviewed by the police “clearly exonerates him of any alleged sexual assault” and makes him “the victim of a crime, as his accuser has filed a false report to law enforcement authorities—a first-degree misdemeanor.” In a letter, Sarelson asked Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier to “take all steps necessary to ensure that no data or information from Mr. Ziegler’s cellphone is released to the public.” (Ziegler is also being investigated for allegedly engaging in video voyeurism by filming the sexual encounter without the woman’s consent, according to the Florida Center for Government Accountability.)
Newly released police reports include text message exchanges between Ziegler and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder and Sarasota school board member Bridget Ziegler, in which she wrote that the woman was “going through some shit” and she didn’t “want to feel like we ever take advantage of anyone (I know it’s always been consensual) but she seems…’broken.'” Ziegler suggested they should “hunt for somebody new.”
In the letter to the Sarasota city attorney, Sarelson further claims that Ziegler should be protected under Florida’s Marsy’s Law, which grants victims of crimes the “right to prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.”
As my colleague Kiera Butler has reported, the Zieglers’ sex scandal also led to Bridget Ziegler’s resignation from the conservative Leadership Institute, where she held the title of vice president of school board programs and trained conservative candidates to run for school board seats across the country. She has continued to face mounting pressure to also resign from her role as Sarasota school board member, but has so far refused to do so.