Lawsuit alleges decades-long molestation by former Texas lawmaker

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Paul Pressler
Paul Pressler

Former Texas state judge and lawmaker Paul Pressler has been hit with a lawsuit that alleges he molested a man over the course of 35 years.

Pressler, a former justice on the 14th Court of Appeals, who served in the Texas House from 1957 to 1959, vehemently denied the allegations by Gareld Duane Rollins, who claims that Pressler began molesting him in 1979, when he was 14, through the year 2014.

The suit also names Pressler’s wife, Nancy, his law partner Jared Woodfill, the First Baptist Church of Houston, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and its president, the Rev. Paige Patterson. Rollins seeks $1 million in damages.

The suit was filed in Harris County on Oct. 18 and obtained by Quorum Report on Monday.

Woodfill told the outlet the suit was an attempt to “extort money from the Southern Baptist Convention” and vowed to “fight it tooth and nail.”

The suit alleges that Rollins and Pressler met when the former attended First Baptist Church, where Pressler held volunteer leadership roles. The suit alleges that Pressler enrolled Rollins in Bible study and began molesting and raping him in his master bedroom study.

The suit also alleges that Pressler told Rollins he could stop at any time, but that Rollins thought God had sanctioned the rapes. The suit says the molestation occurred two to three times per month while Rollins attended college.

A series of crimes that included forgery and possession of a controlled substance resulted in Rollins going to prison and Pressler wrote letters to the parole board asking for his release.

“I have never before agreed to be actively involved in helping someone be released from prison and rehabilitated, but I am willing in this situation because I really believe in Duane,” Pressler wrote on Aug. 10, 2000.

Rollins was denied on that occasion, but he successfully received parole in 2002, after Pressler wrote a letter saying he would employ Rollins to handle personal matters for him, including driving him to speaking engagements. The job would allow Rollins time to finish his college education, Pressler wrote.

“I would be personally involved in every bit of Duane’s life with supervision and control,” Pressler wrote in that May 22, 2002, letter.

However, Rollins was arrested for driving under the influence in Houston in 2004, which led to a string of arrests and jail stints over the next decade-plus. In 2015, he told a psychologist about the alleged molestation and began receiving treatment. A letter from psychiatrist Dr. Harvey Rosenstock that is included in the case file says that Rollins likely suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from childhood sexual trauma.

Pressler is a leader in the “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention, which seeks to push back against perceived liberal influence in the Baptist church. Several pages of Rollins’ suit attempt to discredit the theology of the resurgence, arguing that Pressler and others seek power over women and children.

34 COMMENTS

  1. I know these people and my parents knew these people and my Father just told me he had heard the rumors way back when. He also told me he himself had been approached as a young man invited to a hot tub at a ranch. The corruption and obsession with control, especially over women and those less powerful (children and young people) and the complete crushing of any kind of questioning of authority that resulted from the hard swing to the far right in the Baptist Church, especially in Texas where I grew up–and in Houston, where money can buy you pretty much anything–caused me, and eventually my entire family to leave the Baptist Church. Add to that the horrific events and attacking of the victims at Baylor of late (where a large part of those I grew up in the Baptist Church in Texas with ended up) and you can see that this kind of abuse and hypocrisy has destroyed and perverted the baptist Church. This is about control and deranged people gaslighting generations of young people. It will stop and we will out all of the abuse and hypocrisy. my great-grandparents, who deeply loved their Baptist Christian faith and dedicated much of their lives and philanthropy to Baptist institutions in Texas, would be horrified. I for one am proud to have had the courage to speak out and leave that church as it moved into a right wing control state at the age of fourteen. They brainwash youth. This joke of a SBC is cultlike. The women at Baylor who were raped and assaulted have also not had their day in court but it is coming.

  2. No evidence is offered in this report or cited from court filings, just uncorroborated assertions. All allegations of sexual assault must be treated seriously and investigated. There is no substitute for evidence, however.

  3. I don’t want anything, and nothing terrible happened to me, but Paul Pressler did attempt to use his power and influence to lure me into an inappropriate relationship when I was a much younger man. Praise God I got away without any real damage, but from what I personally experienced – I believe what these men are saying is true.

  4. You would have to be one REALLY dumb bastard to believe the ex con suffered rape for 35 years from this guy…………….please don’t be a dumb ass, it does not highlight your features.

    • Jerry, I have been in the family home over the years. Even when I was a teen, his relations with young men seemed very odd. But he was the king of the castle, and no one dared to question his “Christian” methods. In light of these accusations, it all makes sense now. And it makes me sick.

    • Clinton had problems but he still led the country to its best economic performance in modern times. We will see what your favorite guy in the White House now – the one with 50 accusers of sexual harassment or assault – can do.

  5. My brother was sexually assaulted in the mid 70’s by Paul Pressler in the showers at the Houston Country Club… After bible study. The influence he had over little boys was unquestionable, using God as way to gain their “trust”. My brother will not be seeking anything for he died in 1979, shortly after graduating from UT… I knew the Pressler family well, his daughter asked me to her junior Prom in 1982… My parents made me go… That was so hard… I fell in line with my parents and kept quiet… but as a child, I was disgusted why nothing was done… It was swept under the carpet… My parents told no one, all the kids knew because we lived in the house… How dare we challenge Pressler and his ill-gotten power… Believe what you will but I have quietly known the truth about Paul Pressler for over forty years and love the fact it has bubbled up before his death. There is a special place in hell for Paul Pressler.

  6. The Enemy should be pleased to know that all he has to do is tell Christians to believe the worst and they will obey. The rush to popularly convict men and women with long public records and highly-scrutinized private lives is, in my humble opinion, a sign that many professing Christians are ready for the most dastardly and sinister deceptions, apparently with a guarantee that no such hasty Christian will apply ANY forensic considerations to allegations or supposed evidence.

    I am no special pleader for Judge Pressler or any others who stand accused. I am, in fact, extremely sympathetic to any and all real victims of abuse, and appreciate the sometimes lifelong struggle some of them have from trauma, fear, and unwarranted shame, all imposed upon them by their abusers, and sometimes also by their families and even the culture at large.

    On the other hand, the subject of false accusations has as long a history as any other sin, and can be just as deadly.

    Jesus said, “Judge righteous judgment.” I will phrase my sentences referring to the accused here as “men”, because that seems to be the preponderance of defendants in recent weeks—men being accused of gross improprieties and/or outright crimes. But it could be anyone really.

    It is a historical certainty that most men in leadership roles throughout history have been and will be falsely accused of something—sexual assault, financial malfeasance, abuse of power. Sex, money, and power. These seem to be the prevailing sins in the province of the powerful—as opposed to more “understandable” sins of envy, covetousness, and petty theft among the poor, the young, and the seekers of social justice. (!!!)

    No matter. The credibility of an accusation is not in the level of sordid detail, nor the force of insistence, nor the pathos of the accuser, nor the repulsiveness of the accused.

    Conversely, the credulity of an accusation is not based on whether the accused is held on a pedestal by a group of loyal admirers and is therefore “above” such sin. (Jesus Christ alone is without sin among men—because He was and is God first, and thus without sin.)

    The soundness of both accusations and defenses should be judged dispassionately and according to as many facts as can be known about the accused, the accuser, and the circumstances and environment in which the alleged crime took place. IN OTHER WORDS, THE WHOLE CONTEXT. Context, context, context.

    Regarding heterosexual and homosexual pedophilia, case studies reveal the perpetrator almost never suddenly starts and then stops the behavior, nor is it typically isolated to just one victim. Even in the more common sexual themes between adults, a man or woman who becomes known for being a wolf or a flirt does not typically appear to just start and stop such behavior, but rather there is a much longer track record of this being observed.

    If the Judge was known to give unsolicited flirtatious remarks, touches, and other things a man his age and Christian sensibilities should know better than to engage in, one might make a case that there COULD be more. If the Judge was know to push himself sexually onto colleagues, there COULD be more there. If the Judge had a secret life where pornography was a prominent feature, then one could make a case that there COULD have been ATTEMPTS (PLURAL) by him to cross the bridge from fantasy to a real life encounter.

    But was that Judge Paul Pressler? Is it now? So far, just because one person says it is, it does not make it so. Even if others come forward to say it is, it also does not make it so. It is much easier to bring forward such accusations in a time and place where moral support might be seen to be strong for those alleging such crimes. It is also much easier to pile on with falsehoods in the hopes that they would be believed simply because the timing of these types of accusations is more favorable than ever. I support all who tell the truth. But coming forward with a story, even in a wave of similar stories about other people, does not make any given story to be true.

    Examine as many facts as possible about the accused. Could times and places and other details of the allegations be historically possible?

    Examine all accusers as to possible ulterior motives. Consider the pathology of false accusers: Some are emotionally troubled people who, like arsonists, would sometimes say whatever was necessary to cause chaos that, in their view, might be entertaining to watch, and may elicit sympathy or attention from others, meeting an emotional need. Some false accusers are rebellious and vindictive, who might attempt revenge on an authority figure they feel somehow wronged them in the past. And some false accusers have responded to intimations or direct offers of money or other compensation in return for their risk of slander, libel, and/or perjury. Some false accusers may do what they do in response to all three motives and more.

    If there is discovered recent windfalls of money or favor: follow that beneficence to its source(s). Find the connections. It is not “putting the accuser on trial”, but rather it is examining and establishing—or refuting—the credibility of witnesses, of which the accuser is the prime witness, and must be done in any event, particularly where there are limited witnesses and conflicting stories.

    The same must be done in examining and establishing—or refuting—the credibility of the accused.

    Finally, let’s not be chumps and throw people under the bus simply because we’re told to. In doing so we discourage honest people from seeking public office, because they are guaranteed that people who should NOT be quick to believe the worst, actually DO believe the worst as soon as it is said. In a day when we have had over 60 years of prominent cultural stories and movies and TV series dedicated to methodical and forensic examination of allegations and supposed evidence (among other things), it really is ridiculous to be so gullible when accusations are made about ANYONE. If they cop to it, or they have bragged or promoted such behavior, it is easier to believe accusations along those lines. But if there is no REAL reason to instantly believe sordid and scandalous tales, then DON’T—not until they have had time to be genuinely run to ground and proven one way or another, as best as CAN be “proven”.

    Remember Proverbs 17:4, “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.” To be quick to believe serious accusations when there is no previous track record of any such behavior, says perhaps more about your own character than that of the accused. By all means we must be realistic and mature in looking into serious charges; but for Heaven’s sake, let’s not wish them to be true.

    • Numbers 32:23
      Thank you, Matt Underwood. This is only the tip of a very large iceberg. That which has yet to be revealed is staggering.
      His mercy endures forever.

    • Actually, Matt, it is fairly well known in some of these circles that Pressler enjoyed giving young men massages, and he often invited men to participate in these in the nude. So yes, he did have a habit of touching, collecting young men to himself, etc. These things have been noticed and talked about for years. You may not have heard them, but others did. I have heard the stories of young men in discipleship meetings at his home who were so weirded out by him they never returned, believing he was making veiled sexual advances toward them. While I personally never knew of any incidents with minors or anything that would be illegal, I did suspect he was a closeted homosexual, and possibly a person who groomed young men and preyed on them by virtue of his power and reputation. I came to the opinion something should be said about this. And I had that conversation with a number of people, but we never believed we had clear enough evidence to actually do anything about it. We almost had one of the young men ready to come forward publicly, but then his parents intervened because Pressler told them it was all a misunderstanding, and so nothing came of it. This lawsuit, frankly, has the ring of truth about it, and you can see in the thread here and on other sites that there are a number of level headed, credible sounding people saying similar things, many of which are far worse in scale than anything I knew about. The response on the other side tends to sound like victim shaming, when in fact preying on vulnerable and compromised people is an entirely plausible scenario. I suspect this is a case where the lawsuit will matter less in the end than the fact that it will embolden numerous people to expose the truth before this hypocritical man passes from the earth. He deserves to be known for what he actually was–a hypocrite–and not made into some kind of hero whose image is graven on stained glass!

  7. Some of those we hold in high reguard will be knocked off their pedestal and may do time. Moral terpitude by those given power is widespread.

    Just wait till we all dig down to child molesters level.

    Were just skimming the surface. Imlo.

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