An attorney for a former Texas state lawmaker and judge accused of molestation says a previous confidential settlement agreement stemming from a 2004 civil suit prevents a current suit from moving forward.
Gareld Duane Rollins filed a civil suit against Paul Pressler and seven other defendants last October, alleging that Pressler raped and molested him over the course of 35 years and the other defendants helped cover it up.
But that’s not the first time he’s brought suit against Pressler. As noted in the motion for summary judgment filed in Harris County District Court on Feb. 2, Rollins and his mother, Margaret D. Duryea, sued Pressler over similar allegations in 2004 in Dallas County District Court. Attorney Daniel Shea is his representative in both cases.
Although the actual suit is not available online, some of the details of that case can be viewed on that court’s search portal, case number DC-04-07155.
The current case file 201769277-7 can be viewed on the Harris County District Clerk’s search portal. Free registration is required.
“In 2004, Mr. Rollins…and Mr. Pressler entered into a Rule 11 Settlement Agreement whereby Mr. Rollins waived all his rights, both ‘known and unknown,’ against Mr. Pressler,” attorney Edward Tredennick, representing both Pressler and his wife, Nancy, wrote in the motion for summary judgment. “In light of this waiver, Mr. Rollins’ current lawsuit is barred.”
Tredennick also wrote in that document that the statute of limitations has passed for each charge in the civil suit, which include breach of fiduciary duty; assault by offensive physical contact and conspiracy; intentional infliction of emotional distress; fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy; and negligence.
Tredennick wrote that since the last interaction between Rollins and Pressler occurred in 2004, “Mr. Rollins’ lawsuit is eight years past due.”
Rollins’ suit alleges that Pressler began molesting and raping him not long after he first met Pressler at First Baptist Church of Houston as a 14-year-old in 1978. The 87-year-old vehemently denies those allegations.
Pressler was not only a leader in that church, but also in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Others named in the suit include Jared Woodfill, Pressler’s former law partner; First Baptist Church of Houston; Second Baptist Church of Houston; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its president, the Rev. Paige Patterson; and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Rollins seeks $1 million in damages in the suit.
Shea told The Texas Monitor on Thursday that the discovery rule would cause the case to move forward. It says that if the plaintiff is not in position to recognize the cause of action then the statute of limitations is tolled. That’s essentially legalese for delaying the progression of the period of time set forth by the statute of limitations.
This is most common when the plaintiff was a minor at the time the cause of action began.
“The uniqueness of this situation is you have to take into account the severity of the abuse that occurred,” Shea said.
He said Rollins began using drugs and alcohol at age 14, not long after the alleged molestation began.
The SBC also filed a motion for summary judgment last week, also arguing that the statue of limitations has passed, and that the evidence brought forth by Rollins’ suit doesn’t support SBC as a co-conspirator.
In his motion, Tredennick wrote that even though Pressler denied each claim in the 2004 suit, “the parties chose to privately settle the matter in a court-approved confidential settlement rather than engage in protracted litigation.”
Tredenick also pointed to Rollins’ long arrest record for driving under the influence, drug possession, theft and burglary.
He previously told Texas Tribune those 11 arrests should make one question Rollins’ story.
“Mr. Rollins is clearly a deeply troubled man, with a track record of multiple felonies and incarceration, and it is the height of irresponsibility that anyone would present such a bizarre and frivolous case,” Tredennick said.
A hearing on the Pressler’s motion for summary judgment is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 23.
Johnny Kampis can be reached at [email protected]