The former chair of the Florida Republican Party will not be charged with sexually assaulting a woman, but authorities will seek to charge him with video voyeurism, the Sarasota Police Department announced Friday.
In a news release from the department, officials said an investigation into the alleged sexual battery concluded the sexual encounter between Christian Ziegler and the woman was “likely consensual.”
Ziegler has been under investigation since October, after a woman accused him of raping her at her apartment after she canceled a three-way sexual encounter with Ziegler and his wife, Bridget, who is a Sarasota County School Board member and co-founder of the conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty, according to a search warrant affidavit, which CNN obtained from the Florida Center for Government Accountability.
Ziegler was ousted from his role as Florida GOP chairman earlier this month amid the investigation.
“As a result of the lengthy investigation, Sarasota Police detectives found video evidence that on October 2, 2023, a sexual encounter occurred between the victim and Christian Ziegler,” the news release said. “Ziegler recorded the encounter on his cell phone. The video showed that the encounter was likely consensual. Therefore, detectives were unable to develop probable cause to charge Ziegler with Sexual Battery.”
Police said that in an interview with the woman, she was shown the video and told investigators that she did not consent to the recording. As a result, investigators said they prepared a probable cause affidavit against Ziegler for the felony crime of video voyeurism. In Florida, videotaping a sexual encounter without consent is a third-degree felony.
Police said the case has been turned over to the state attorney’s office for review.
“We will immediately begin to review their investigative findings. Our review will be thorough, and we will release our investigative findings as soon as possible,” Sarasota State Attorney Ed Brodsky told CNN.
Ziegler’s attorney said his client’s reputation and professional life have suffered “irreparable harm.”
“At the beginning of the investigation we asked and warned the public to withhold judgment of criminal wrongdoing until a thorough investigation of the facts was complete,” attorney Derek Byrd said in a statement to CNN. “Sadly, many people and media outlets refused to give Mr. Ziegler that courtesy. That was unfair and unfortunate and has caused irreparable harm to Mr. Ziegler’s reputation, his personal life, professional life, and his family. While we are disappointed that the Sarasota Police Department ‘punted’ the decision on the remaining portion of the case to the State Attorney’s office, we strongly believe that the State Attorney will not prosecute Mr. Ziegler for any crime.”
During interviews with investigators, Ziegler said the sexual encounter was consensual. According to an affidavit, Bridget Ziegler told detectives about an alleged previous three-way rendezvous with the woman who accused her husband of rape.
News of the investigation, first reported by Florida Center for Government Accountability, sparked an immediate backlash. There were calls for the Zieglers to resign from their high-profile positions. Christian Ziegler refused and was voted out of his leadership role earlier this month. Bridget Ziegler, who was never accused of criminal wrongdoing, continues to face calls to step down from the Sarasota County School Board.