MIAMI — The woman accusing Republican Party of Florida Chair Christian Ziegler of rape told him over Instagram messages that she was distraught and “terrified” of him after their encounter and unable to work, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The affidavit also revealed that Ziegler’s wife, Bridget Ziegler, who co-founded the conservative parents group Moms for Liberty, acknowledged to police that she, the victim and her husband had consensual sex together over a year before the alleged crime occurred, per an interview police conducted Nov. 1.
The search warrant, filed by authorities with the Sarasota County court, provides additional details about the accusations against the state GOP chair and his wife following the revelation about a rape accusation that shocked party members and led Gov. Ron DeSantis to call for Ziegler to resign.
Both Zieglers are active in Florida Republican politics. Ziegler is a former Sarasota County Commissioner while his wife, besides her role with Moms for Liberty, won a position to Sarasota’s school board after DeSantis endorsed her. She also serves on the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District that governs Walt Disney World, which DeSantis overhauled after the California-based entertainment giant publicly objected to a state law that restricted how gender and sexual orientation can be taught in schools.
The search warrant affidavit reveals that police sought a search warrant of Google’s servers because Ziegler admitted to police that he’d filmed the Oct. 2 encounter between himself and the woman accusing him of rape. He said he initially deleted the video but put it on Google Drive, though police filed a request for a search warrant after they had been unable to locate it.
Ziegler hasn’t been charged with a crime but the investigation is still underway. Ziegler admitted in the search warrant affidavit that he and the woman had sex, but said it was consensual.
He and his wife didn’t respond to a request for comment about the affidavit. Derek Byrd, his attorney, said on Saturday that they intend to let the investigation play out and previously said he expects Ziegler to be “completely exonerated.”
The search warrant affidavit, obtained by POLITICO from the Florida Center for Government Accountability — which first broke the story about the rape complaint — shows the alleged victim and Ziegler had known each other for over 20 years. The contents of the affidavit were first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
On the day of the alleged assault, the woman had initially agreed to meet because she thought Bridget Ziegler would be joining them. She canceled when she learned Bridget Ziegler wouldn’t be there, saying she had only agreed to the encounter because she wanted her there.
Video surveillance footage, reviewed by police, showed that Ziegler went to her residence anyway. As she was exiting her apartment to walk her dog, the woman alleged that Ziegler entered her home and had sex with her without a condom. She told police she couldn’t consent because she had been drinking alcohol, as it was her day off work. Christian told her after the alleged assault that he would be “leaving the same way I came in.”
The woman called a relative to tell her she was raped and the relative confirmed to police that she was “very emotional and distraught.”
The search warrant affidavit revealed the victim received a rape kit from Sarasota memorial hospital after telling police on Oct. 4 that she had been raped two days earlier.
With police keeping track of messages, the woman began texting Ziegler over Instagram in late October, telling him she “wasn’t OK” with what he’d done and that she’d been unable to work. “You didn’t bring her and then you did that to me,” she wrote.
In follow up calls that were recorded, the woman accusing Ziegler of rape told him that he had hurt her when he went to her house and demanded to know why he forced her to have sex. When she accused him of raping her, he said, “Those are big words, please don’t, no I didn’t. You invited me in, that’s it. I did not at all, and I never want you to feel that way,” according to the documents.
Ziegler then asked how he could help, including financially, and she demanded he acknowledge “that he has been using her all these years.” After he asked whether she was recording him and trying to get him to say something, the victim asked Ziegler to leave her alone.
Police had first gone to the alleged victim’s home on Oct. 4 after a friend of hers called 911 and said she was worried about her, per a call posted by the Florida Center for Government Accountability. She said the woman hadn’t gone to work, that she told her she was afraid to leave her house after being raped.
The Republican Party of Florida didn’t respond to a request for comment and said previously — when the complaint first came to light — that it wouldn’t be commenting on the ongoing investigation. Moms for Liberty said “Bridget was an original founder of Moms for Liberty but she stepped back from the organization’s board in 2021.” Bridget Ziegler spoke at the organization’s Philadelphia summit this summer and still works on a non-governing board for the group.
The governor’s office and a representative for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight did not respond to inquiries from POLITICO about whether Bridget Ziegler would be resigning from her position. DeSantis on Thursday night called for her husband to step down from leading the state party.
“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing given the gravity of those situations,” DeSantis told reporters following a debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “I think he should step aside.”
Gary Fineout contributed.