Further details have been revealed in the investigation of a sexual assault alleged by a woman who had been involved in a consensual tryst with local political leaders Christian and Bridget Ziegler.
In November, the Sarasota Police Department received search warrants for Christian Ziegler’s cellphone and social media accounts and devices after probable cause was found in allegations of sexual battery by an unnamed woman who was known to the Zieglers for 20 years.
Affidavits secured by the Observer name Ziegler in the alleged Oct. 2 assault at the woman’s apartment. She told police she changed her mind about an encounter that afternoon after learning Bridget Ziegler was unable to participate. Bridget Ziegler, who is no party to the investigation, has confirmed to investigators that she and her husband had a sexual encounter with the woman more than a year ago, and that it happened only once.
The Zieglers are statewide leaders in the Republican Party. Christian Ziegler is the Florida GOP chairman and a former Sarasota County Commissioner. Bridget Ziegler is a co-founder of the organization Moms for Liberty and a member of the Sarasota County School Board.
According to the affidavit, once the woman learned at 2:12 p.m. on Oct. 2 that Bridget Ziegler was not accompanying Christian, she changed her mind. Twelve minutes later, the woman responded to him by Instagram message, “Sorry I was mostly in for her.”
The woman told police that when she left her apartment to walk her dog Ziegler was standing in the hallway. She said he then entered the apartment and raped her. She also stated that she did not have the capacity to consent because “it was her day off and she had been drinking tequila all day,” according to the affidavit.
Video footage confirms the times of Ziegler’s arrival and departure from the apartment.
On Oct. 27, Ziegler attempted to contacted the woman via Instagram. Those messages were captured. They include:
Accuser: “I’m not okay with what happened the other day between us.”
Ziegler: “Oh. That’s not good. You are my friend. Known ya for like 20 years now.”
Accuser: “Yeah I know but that was not cool and you didn’t bring her and then did that to me.”
Ziegler: "She was in. … Your my friend I actually like you as a person, so sorry you got upset, but I can leave you alone if you prefer.”
Accuser: “I have not been able to work since you came over.”
Ziegler: “I am pretty loyal to my friends. Tried to call. Hard to text. How can I help?”
Accuser: “I really can’t even talk to you right now.”
Ziegler: "Wanna meet and chat? Worried about you. You are my friend.”
Accuser: “Hell no not after what you did to me. Do you not understand I am terrified of you?”
Communication then turned to phone calls, which were recorded, according to the affidavit. In the third of three calls, the woman told Ziegler that he had sexually assaulted her.
He responded, “Those are big words, please don’t, no I didn’t.” She asked him to acknowledge that he had been using her for years, which he refused to do. He asked if she was recording him. At the end of that call, he asked what he could do to help her and she told him to leave her alone.
That and further details in the affidavit were enough for the 12th Judicial Circuit Court to grant the search warrants for Ziegler’s cellphone and device account as well as his Google account.
The affidavit also states the woman called her twin sister and told her she was raped, but did not initially tell her by whom. The sister confirmed she went immediately to the woman’s home and that she was distraught. She was treated and examined at Sarasota Memorial Hospital where a sexual assault kit was completed. The affidavit does not state the results of that test.
Sarasota attorney Derek Byrd spoke on behalf of Ziegler.
“We acknowledge the reports that there is an investigation being conducted by the Sarasota Police Department regarding Mr. Ziegler,” Byrd wrote in a statement. "Mr. Ziegler has been fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department. We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated.”
The Sarasota County GOP, though, wasted little time in weighing in on the allegations once becoming public.
“We are shocked and disappointed to hear of the reports concerning Republican Party of Florida Chair and Sarasota County State Committeeman Christian Ziegler, and his wife, Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler,” the organization wrote in a statement. “The Republican Party takes all such allegations of potential criminal conduct very seriously and will fully cooperate with investigators.”
Christian Ziegler was a Sarasota County commissioner from 2018 to 2022 and did not seek reelection. Bridget Ziegler has been a member of the Sarasota County School Board since 2014, her current term expiring in November 2026.
Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.