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Florida’s Republican chair denies lady’s rape allegation Categorical Occasions

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The top of the Florida Republican Get together, whose spouse is a founding father of one of many nation’s most distinguished conservative teams, has been accused of rape, main Gov. Ron DeSantis to name for his resignation, roiling the state’s conservative politics and creating accusations of hypocrisy from Democrats and LBGTQ+ activists.

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Police search warrant affidavits obtained by Florida information organizations present {that a} lady who had been associates with Christian Ziegler for 20 years has accused him of raping her in her residence two months in the past. Ziegler, a longtime celebration activist who took over the state Republican Get together in February, denied the allegations in an interview with police, saying the intercourse was consensual.

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No felony expenses have been filed towards Ziegler, 40, however the Sarasota Police investigation stays open. The accuser’s title has not been launched, and The Related Press doesn’t determine the attainable victims of sexual assault with out their permission.

“We’re assured that after the police investigation is concluded that no expenses might be filed and Mr. Ziegler might be utterly exonerated,” his lawyer, Derek Byrd, mentioned in a press release.

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His spouse, Bridget Ziegler, advised detectives that the three had engaged in intercourse as soon as greater than a yr in the past. She is a co-founder of Mothers for Liberty, a bunch that together with the Florida GOP and DeSantis has pushed towards LBGTQ+ causes and their supporters.

Bridget Ziegler can also be an elected member of the Sarasota County college board and was appointed by DeSantis to the board that now oversees Walt Disney World’s land improvement. DeSantis pushed by way of laws final yr disbanding a Disney-controlled board after the corporate opposed his invoice that limits intercourse training in colleges.

DeSantis mentioned on Thursday that Christian Ziegler ought to resign, noting that whereas he’s harmless till confirmed responsible, his presence could be a distraction and that “the mission (of electing Republicans) is extra necessary.” DeSantis is in search of the celebration’s presidential nomination, however trails former President Donald Trump within the polls.

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Mothers for Liberty posted on X (previously Twitter) on Thursday that it helps Bridget Ziegler and “each different badass lady preventing for youths & America.” Ziegler was one of many group’s three founders in early 2021.

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Initially began in Florida, the group has since expanded nationwide and has had some success working social conservatives for varsity board seats.

Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Get together, mentioned in a press release that Christian Ziegler ought to resign after which took a shot at each Christian and Bridget Ziegler, saying “the extent of hypocrisy on this scenario is gorgeous.”

“What occurs behind closed doorways is Christian and Bridget’s private enterprise. That being mentioned, I do discover it attention-grabbing that two people who find themselves so obsessive about banning books about homosexual penguins is likely to be engaged in a non-traditional sexual relationship,” Fried mentioned.

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She was referring to the youngsters’s e book “And Tango Makes Three” about two male penguins who increase a chick collectively. Primarily based on a real story, the e book is commonly a goal of Mothers for Liberty members and different conservatives who don’t suppose it ought to be included in elementary college libraries. The AP couldn’t verify that the Zieglers have personally opposed the e book.

Christian Ziegler didn’t instantly reply to a cellphone message left Saturday in search of remark. No phone quantity for Bridget Ziegler was accessible, and an e-mail despatched Saturday in search of remark by way of Mothers for Liberty wasn’t instantly returned.

The search warrant affidavits had been obtained by the Florida Middle for Authorities Accountability, an investigative information group. It shared them with a number of different information shops which have posted them on-line. The AP has not been in a position to get hold of its personal copies. The warrants allowed police to grab Christian Ziegler’s cellphone and acquire his on-line communications.

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Within the affidavits filed final month, Sarasota Police Detective Angela Cox mentioned investigators had been in search of emails, images, movies, contacts and different data from Christian Ziegler’s cellphone and Google account as a part of their investigation into the girl’s accusation.

The lady advised detectives that she and Christian Ziegler have identified one another for greater than 20 years. She mentioned that on Oct. 2, she agreed to have intercourse with Ziegler and his spouse however backed out after Christian Ziegler advised her that his spouse “couldn’t make it.”

The lady mentioned that some time later, she left her residence to stroll her canine solely to seek out Ziegler standing within the hallway. She says he pushed her inside and raped her, in response to the affidavits. Investigators say the residence complicated’s safety video exhibits Ziegler coming into the constructing and leaving.

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The lady’s sister advised Cox that the girl known as her and advised her she was raped. The lady reported the rape two days later.

In late October, after Ziegler tried to contact the girl, police had her alternate monitored cellphone and textual content message conversations with him. In line with the affidavits, he insisted that they’re associates and at one level prompt that they meet in particular person.

“Hell no, not after what you probably did to me. Do you perceive I’m afraid of you?” she wrote to him.

He replied that he needed to go.

In a cellphone name, the girl advised Ziegler that he had sexually assaulted her.

“These are large phrases, please don’t, no I didn’t,” he replied. “You invited me in.”

He supplied her “monetary assist” earlier than changing into suspicious that their calls had been being recorded.

In a Nov. 2 interview with detectives along with his lawyer current, Ziegler mentioned the intercourse was consensual and that he had recorded it. He mentioned he then deleted the video, however after the accusation he recovered it and uploaded it to Google.

Detectives seized Christian Ziegler’s cellphone on Nov. 2 and accessed his Google account two weeks in the past, the affidavits say.

None of what they’ve discovered has been made public.

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