If Christian Ziegler faces a video voyeurism charge, will sex videos go public?

Marsy's Law likely means the victim can prevent the public distribution of any video.

The potential for Christian Ziegler to face a video voyeurism charge opens new legal questions around the case. The most scandalous is whether sex videos taken by the embattled Republican Party leader will become public as evidence.

A judge found probable cause that Ziegler violated Florida’s video voyeurism law when he filmed a sexual encounter with a woman in Sarasota. Legal experts say that opens a new legal aspect to the case independent of whether he ever faces a rape charge.

“It would be a separate crime,” said Orlando lawyer Richard Hornsby, who represented clients in several video voyeurism cases. “The only question is whether (the victim) knew they were being videotaped when this was going on.”

Circuit Judge Thomas Krug issued a search warrant for data shared on Ziegler’s Instagram account, according to an affidavit first obtained and published by The Trident, the news division for the Florida Center for Government Accountability.

Derek Byrd, an attorney for Ziegler, declined to comment on the development.

Krug issued the search warrant on Dec. 8, more than two months into an active rape investigation of Ziegler. A woman who said she has been involved in a previous threesome with Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler, told police in October the Zieglers scheduled a similar tryst on Oct. 2.

That day, Christian Ziegler told her he was coming over without Bridget, and she told him not to come over. But she said he arrived at her apartment anyway and forced her to have sex with him.

The case has drawn national attention thanks to Christian Ziegler’s role as Chair of the Republican Party of Florida and Bridget Ziegler’s work as co-founder of the conservative parental rights group Moms For Liberty.

Christian Ziegler maintains the sexual encounter was consensual. The new affidavit shows Ziegler shared a two-and-a-half minute video of the encounter, and law enforcement sources previously indicated to The Trident that the video contradicts key portions of the accuser’s account.

But the latest court documents show police aren’t only investigating Ziegler for rape. Under Florida law, video voyeurism is a third-degree felony, punishable on first offense with up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

The law bars individuals intentionally recording images in secret of someone privately exposing their bodies. State law said someone cannot make such a recording for “his or her own amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person” without permission.

Police obtained a search warrant to collect Ziegler’s recording of the Oct. 2 incident, and in the process disclosed many details about the investigation. That includes Bridget Ziegler admitting to police that she engaged in a previous encounter with the accuser and her husband more than a year prior to the investigation.

Based on search warrants, police also reportedly obtained a second sex video that includes Bridget Ziegler in sexual relations with another woman, according to The Trident.

Notably, none of this video has been made public, and lawyers familiar with victim’s rights laws say that quite likely won’t happen. Marsy’s Law prevents the public disclosure of evidence that would identify the victim of a crime.

“It doesn’t matter the age of a victim, they are entitled to confidentiality,” said Ajay Pallegar, a Tampa lawyer at Pallegar Law. “In cases like a sex crime, any release of public information has a huge embarrassment factor for that individual.”

To date, police have not released the name of the accuser for the same reason. While a recent court ruling struck down portions of Marsy’s Law regarding a categorical protection of victims’ names, the law still protects victims from the release of information that would lead to harassment or embarrassment, Pallegar said.

Hornsby also said there’s a certain degree of ownership a person has over their likeness appearing in a sex video, including one taken without their consent. “The victim should be able to prohibit the distribution of these videos,” he said.

But a separate lawyer who asked not to be named said the victim could ultimately choose to allow video to become evidence. When that decision is made, it’s often a matter of legal strategy and leverage by the petitioner in a court case.

Whether the accuser in this case brought court action herself or the state pursues criminal charges against Ziegler, the victim could decide the release of the video was important to the case and allow the distribution.

Regardless, attorneys will need to be proactive to stop any video evidence from becoming public if the case goes to trial.

“Criminal cases are by law open to the public,” said said Jordi Zangara, a Miami-Dade lawyer. “The only restrictions are that neither party can taint the jury pool. This would result in case being pre-judged in the public sphere. The only other restriction is specific court order forbidding release of records to the public.”

But such an order should be easy to obtain, if attorneys seek such restriction in court.

“I don’t know that the court would find that there’s very much public interest in a porn video essentially. So I’m sure the court would be happy to bar all parties from releasing it,” Zangara said, “if a motion is filed.”

Republican officials in the state have openly raised the prospect of videos being widely shared on pornography websites. Such a development could bring further political consequences to both Zieglers.

Already, the Republican Party of Florida’s executive board censured and sidelined Christian Ziegler in his role as Chair. A meeting will be held Jan. 8 to formally remove Ziegler as Chair.

The Leadership Institute has also parted ways with Bridget Ziegler, previously the conservative think tank’s Director of School Board Programs. She has resisted calls to resign her School Board seat.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Earl Pitts "Sage Expert on Everything" American

    January 2, 2024 at 1:14 pm

    Good afternoon America,
    Well Well Well now; we are moments away from release of the Epstein Island guest list. The meida already squeeled out that at least one of the Clintons was a regular. Lunch Box Joe was not too old back in the day to participate. This could be Joe’s handlers way of pushing Lunch Box overboard. Also if any of the Trump family is “On The List” Boom thats it …. as I’ve perdicted …. Ron DeSantis will be the next POTUS.

    • George

      January 2, 2024 at 1:59 pm

      Weren’t you conceived on Epstein Island?

      • Earl Pitts is a Pedophile

        January 2, 2024 at 2:38 pm

        Earl was probably a regular on Epstein Island, or at least he wishes he was. He’s a convicted pedophile.

  • tom palmer

    January 2, 2024 at 4:37 pm

    It would seem that public release of the videos would anyone who downloaded it a voyeur, too. Just sayin’

  • Sonja Fitch

    January 3, 2024 at 4:46 am

    Don’t know whether to cry or laugh! Yucky!

  • Turdface Mcstretch

    January 3, 2024 at 7:31 am

    “I don’t know that the court would find that there’s very much public interest in a porn video essentially.”

    I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with that statement

  • My Take

    January 3, 2024 at 1:43 pm

    Somebody will leak them.

  • Dont Say FLA

    January 4, 2024 at 3:01 pm

    Two-and-a-half minutes? No wonder that lady got mad.

    Still, props to Mr Ziegler. That’s two minutes longer than most G0P men, and you’re known by the come pony you keep.

Comments are closed.


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