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Judge rules police didn't need to seize Christian Ziegler's phone, so the media can't watch threesome videos

Bridget and Christian Ziegler
Twitter/X @BridgetAZiegler

The one-time Republican power couple fell from grace after the Ziegler's were revealed to have had threesomes with women — something advocates have said is hypocritical given the couple's previous anti-LGBTQ+ stances.

A judge ruled former conservativepower couple Christian and Bridget Zieglers’threesome videos should not be made public. Further, in a decision that surprised some close to the case,Florida Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll declared Sarasota Police should never have seized the full contents of Christian Ziegler’s smartphone in the first place.

Police last year investigated an accusation from Sarasota woman who alleged Christian Ziegler raped her. Ziegler, chair of the Republican Party of Florida at the time, admitted to the sex but said it was consensual, and volunteered video of the encounter from his phone. Police responded with a search warrant and seized the phone and downloaded all of its contents.

Ultimately, authorities determined the sex was “likely consensual” andbrought no charges. But over the course of the investigation, embarrassing details emerged about the Zieglers’ sex lives, including that the woman leveling the accusation had engaged in a threesome with the couple before, and had scheduled another event the day of the alleged rape and canceled when it was clear Bridget would not be part of it.

Manysalacious details came from Christian Ziegler’s phone, which contained more than 250,000 photographs, 30,000 videos and 12,000 text messages between the Zieglers. But Carroll now says police did not need all that data.

“Mr. Ziegler has the constitutional right to recover exclusive control over his personal property seized (involuntarily) through unconstitutional warrants,” Carroll wrote.

“His property is not transformed into public record because it was not ‘made or received pursuant to law’ and is outside the ‘official business’ of law enforcement. Because Mr. Ziegler’s personal property is not public record, there is no legal impediment to restoring exclusive possession of Mr. Ziegler’s property to Mr. Ziegler.”

In a statement, Christian Ziegler celebrated the legal victory.

"This victory is not just for us, but for everyone who values their privacy and constitutional rights,” he said. “We are grateful to the court for recognizing the overreach in this case and for protecting our personal information from being unjustly exposed."

Carroll in his decision-making placed some weight in precedent from another Florida case, one involving prostitution charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Media parties sought the release of surveillance footage of a Florida massage parlor, but attorneys argued the release could prejudice the jury. Attorneys seeking the release of contents in Ziegler’s phone argued the same issue did not apply here, as Ziegler wasn’t facing a criminal trial.

Michael Barfield, Public Access Director at the Florida Center for Government Accountability, said his organization will likely seek a new hearing or appeal Carroll’s decision. Third parties seeking the release of footage argued in court the evidence was of high interest but also was relevant in illuminating the decision not to press any charges against Ziegler. Police say the phone included lists of potential and actual sexual conquests for Ziegler and the couple together.

Of note, the Zieglers have paid a significant price in political capital amid national coverage of the case. Bridget Ziegler still holds her elected office as a Sarasota School Board member, but lost her job with the Leadership Institute, a national conservative think tank. She is aco-founder of Moms For Liberty, which is labeled as an ‘extremist’ anti-LGBTQ group by theSouthern Poverty Law Center, but the group hasdistanced itself from the Zieglers amid the scandal.

Christian Ziegler, meanwhile, was a former Sarasota County Commissioner and had been elected as his party’s state chair based in part on ties to Donald Trump. But he wasremoved from his position over the scandal.

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