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Zieglers sue to stop release of rape investigation records 

The Zieglers at Mar-a-Lago (Via Facebook)

Former Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler and his wife Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota School Board Member and cofounder of the conservative group Moms for Liberty, have filed a lawsuit seeking to bar the release of records involved in the husband’s criminal rape investigation. 

The once powerful Republican power couple sued the City of Sarasota and State Attorney’s Office specifically to prevent the release to the media text messages they sent to each other recovered by police during the now-closed investigation.

The Zieglers attached affidavits to the lawsuit claiming phone and text records and other content on social media accounts seized after the issuance of several search warrants were intended to be private and confidential. 

The lawsuit, filed March 15, alleges the Zieglers “are concerned that other individuals and media outlets will most likely make, or have already made” requests for public records possessed by the two agencies. 

The Zieglers seek to prevent the release of text messages between Christian and Bridget. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the “permanent destruction of all subject text messages” obtained by police in the investigation.

The investigation began with a complaint from a woman who alleged Christian Ziegler raped her at her apartment this past October. The couple had engaged in consensual threesomes with the woman twice before.

Some text messages between Christian and Bridget have already been released by the police department, among them an exchange from 2021 in which they discussed the alleged victim. In those texts, Christian related that he found the woman “hot,” but he suspected she was only attracted to Bridget, and cautioned his wife that she is an “alcoholic, nice person with some issues.” 

“I just don’t want to feel like we ever take advantage of anyone (I know it’s always been consensual) but she seems … ‘broken,’” Bridget texted her husband back. “… And my nature is more likely to help her versus … ya know.”

Christian responded that it was time for them to “hunt for someone new.” The content of the remaining text messages in the possession of police is unknown. 

It was this past Oct. 2 that Christian Ziegler began texting the alleged victim about having another threesome, but the woman canceled when she learned Bridget wasn’t able to make it. Christian arrived at her apartment anyway, where the woman claimed he raped her while she was too intoxicated to consent. Christian admitted having sex with the woman, but said it was consensual and produced a video he’d taken of the brief sexual encounter to back up that assertion. 

After the Florida Trident broke news of the investigation on Nov. 30, 2023, the scandal quickly engulfed the Republican power couple. Bridget at the time was a close ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis and a darling of Florida’s conservative movement. She championed anti-LGBTQ policies, including the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, book bans, and right-wing culture wars. 

The couple’s fall from power was swift. Christian Ziegler was removed as chair of the Republican Party of Florida in January 2024. The Leadership Institute quietly removed Bridget Ziegler as Vice President of School Board Programs in December 2023. Despite widespread calls for her resignation from the school board, she remains in her elected seat. 

Christian Ziegler was not charged with any criminal offense after the Sarasota Police Department and the State Attorney recently concluded no criminal charges would be filed for video voyeurism due to Christian Ziegler videotaping the sexual encounter allegedly without the woman’s knowledge.  

Both police and the State Attorney cited inconsistencies in the victim’s memory of events based on “substantial intoxication and trauma that the victim was experiencing” as a factor in their decision, while also finding she had no “financial, political, or malicious personal motivation to report this incident and initiate a police investigation into [Christian Ziegler].” 

About the Author: Michael Barfield focuses on the enforcement of open government laws. He serves as an investigative reporter and FLCGA’s Director of Public Access. He regularly assists journalists across the country with collecting information and publishing news reports obtained from public records and other sources.