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.
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.