Sarasota police Friday said they do not have “probable cause” to charge former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler with sexual battery but are asking prosecutors to review allegations of video voyeurism.
The announcement came less than two weeks after state party leaders removed Ziegler from the chairmanship amid the police investigation into Ziegler’s sexual encounter with a woman in October.
“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 police department said in a news release Friday. “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.
“After conducting an additional follow-up interview with the victim and after showing the victim the video recording of the sex act, the victim advised Sarasota Police detectives that she was unaware and did not consent to being video recorded.”
Police sent what is known as a probable cause affidavit to the State Attorney’s Office in the 12th Judicial Circuit about a possible charge of video voyeurism, a third-degree felony. The news release said Ziegler cooperated throughout the investigation.
After the investigation became public in November, Ziegler indicated he wasn’t going to step aside from the party chairmanship, calling the allegations “false.”
But the investigation and Ziegler’s acknowledgment that the woman making the allegations had been involved in a sexual relationship with him and his wife, Bridget, caused a political firestorm. Ziegler drew calls to step aside from the chairmanship, which he won in February 2023.
The calls, including from top Republicans such as Gov. Ron DeSantis, came as the party gears up for the 2024 elections. In December, the party’s executive board stripped Ziegler of his authority as chairman and cut his salary to $1. Daily functions of the party were turned over to then-Vice Chairman Evan Power.
The party’s executive committee Jan. 8 voted to remove Ziegler and replace him with Power.
Bridget Ziegler, who was not connected to the allegations, helped organize the Moms For Liberty conservative political group and is a member of the Sarasota County School Board. She has withstood repeated calls to step down from the county school board since the investigation and the couple’s relationship with the alleged victim became public.
Bridget Ziegler has also been appointed by DeSantis to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors, which helps govern property that includes Walt Disney World.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida