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Florida Republican Party Chair Under Investigation for Alleged Sexual Assaul

The chairman of Florida’s Republican party, Christian Ziegler, is reported to be under investigation for sexual battery – a potential political bombshell in a state that Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis call home.

According to heavily redacted police department documents, Ziegler is mentioned in the context of an “active criminal investigation” after an individual reported being “sexually battered” at home in Sarasota on 2 October.

The detective’s report mentions a “sexual assault allegation” and “sexual assault complaint” but almost no other information. Only five words survive the redactions: “stated … raped … stated that … raped”, according to Sarasota’s Herald-Tribune and other outlets.

Derek Byrd, an attorney for the Republican party chairman, said he was confident his client “will be completely exonerated” and said he had been “fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota police department”.

“Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain,” Byrd added. “I would caution anyone not to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded. Out of respect for the investigation, this is all Mr Ziegler or myself can say at this time.”

Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, said in a statement that Ziegler should resign. He told reporters that Ziegler has been a friend, but the “gravity of those situations” meant he could continue leading the party.

“He’s innocent till proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny,” DeSantis said. “The mission is more important.”

The police report containing the allegations was first brought to light by Florida Center for Government Accountability’s Florida Trident publication, which says police seized Ziegler’s cellphone and “investigators continue to conduct a forensic examination of the electronic device”, citing only anonymous sources.

Sources told the publication that the woman accusing Ziegler “alleged that she and both Zieglers had been involved in a longstanding consensual three-way sexual relationship prior to the incident” and that the incident occurred when Ziegler and the woman were alone at the woman’s house.

The Republican party of Sarasota county issued a statement saying the party was “shocked and disappointed” by the reports, adding that it “takes all such allegations of potential criminal conduct very seriously and will fully cooperate with investigators”.

The allegations hit as Florida Republicans are preparing for next year’s presidential election with a candidate for the nomination, DeSantis, struggling to make headway against the presumed nominee and Florida transplant, Trump.

Ziegler is a former Sarasota county commissioner who became chairman of the state Republican party in February. His wife, Bridget Ziegler, is a founder of Moms for Liberty (M4L), the parental rights organization that has been at the forefront of efforts to ban or require parental consent for certain LGBTQ+ books and literature in schools and libraries.

In a now-deleted X post, M4L said: “Yet another attempt today to ruin the reputation of a strong woman fighting for America … We stand with @BridgetAZiegler & every other badass woman fighting for kids & America.”

Bridget Ziegler, who is no longer involved with M4L, was with DeSantis when he signed legislation that came to be known as the “don’t say gay” bill and was appointed to a board that oversees a special district that oversees the Disney-owned Disneyland that DeSantis and state Republicans have feuded with.

“As leaders in the Florida GOP and Moms for Liberty, the Zieglers have made a habit out of attacking anything they perceive as going against ‘family values’ – be it reproductive rights or the existence of LGBTQ+ Floridians,” the Florida Democratic party chair, Nikki Fried, said in a statement. “The level of hypocrisy in this situation is stunning.”

Source: The Guardian