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Florida GOP chair faces sexual battery accusations; attorney says he’ll be exonerated

Florida Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler addresses attendees at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Florida Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler addresses attendees at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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Christian Ziegler, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, is under criminal investigation for allegations related to sexual battery, a Sarasota Police Department report indicated Thursday.

The heavily redacted report offered few details about the investigation but included an accusation from a person who reported being “sexually battered” in an Oct. 2 incident at a home in Sarasota.

No charges have been filed against Ziegler. The police report does not mention Ziegler by name but was released in response to questions about a complaint filed against him. It was released shortly after the Florida Center for Government Accountability broke a story about an investigation involving Ziegler and allegations of sexual battery.

Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, said his client has been “fully cooperative” with the Sarasota Police Department and will be cleared of wrongdoing.

“We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated,” Byrd said in a statement. “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.”

Byrd said he did not know if Ziegler would continue serving as the head of the Florida GOP. Ziegler did not respond to a message seeking comment on his political future.

Nikki Fried, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, called on Ziegler to resign.

“Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously,” she said. “I applaud the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler, and I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations of criminal behavior.”

The report is almost completely blacked out but includes the words “raped,” “sexual assault complaint” and “sexual assault allegation.”

Ziegler and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, are a power couple in Florida politics. A former Sarasota County commissioner, Christian Ziegler was elected GOP chairman in February.

His wife is a co-founder of the conservative education group Moms for Liberty. She serves on the board of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Disney World oversight district and also is a member of the Sarasota County School Board.

 

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