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Former Florida GOP leader Ziegler told police he feared 'the political side' of assault investigation

Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in News & Features

“At the time I didn’t think anything of it until the end of the month when I sent her a message and she’s like, ‘Hey, what happened wasn’t right,’ he said. And I was like, ‘Whoa, what are you talking (about)?’ ... It was a little bit of a shock when I found out that she was upset. And it created a little bit of panic on my end because I just never suspected that. And it totally caught me off guard, to be honest.”

In his interviews, Ziegler appears deferential and cooperative with investigators. But he also expresses concern with how the investigation will play out publicly — not just for himself, but for his wife, whom he describes as “terrified” over a police search of his phone.

“I’m taking the shots. I’m fine,” he said Dec. 1. “My wife’s in a different unique situation and unfortunately she can’t really defend herself. She’s not involved as much as I am in the middle of this process.”

When police first confronted Ziegler on Nov. 1, he questioned how much of their interview would become public more than 25 times before police even told him he’d been accused of sexual battery.

“I’m usually a very transparent, open guy, and usually I would just go through whatever you want to go through,” he said. “I’m not necessarily worried about the complaint, I’m worried about the public side of it.”

He predicted, accurately, that the case would come to dominate the state’s political discourse.


“This will be a national story. Not necessarily because of the details, but even just the report,” he said. “This is going to be not good.”


(Times staff writer Justin Garcia contributed to this story.)


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