Sexual abuse claims against former lawmaker Pressler dismissed

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Paul Pressler
Paul Pressler

The sexual abuse claims against former Texas House member and judge Paul Pressler have been dismissed.

Harris County District Judge R.K. Sandill dismissed the claims last month, saying the statute of limitations has passed. Other related civil suit claims, brought against Pressler by his alleged abuse victim, remain to be litigated.

The 88-year-old Pressler is a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. He served in the Texas House from 1957 to 1959 and as a justice on the Texas 14th Court of Appeals from 1978 to 1992. He has denied that the abuse occurred.

Houston resident Gareld Duane Rollins, 53, alleges that Pressler began sexually assaulting him in 1979 when Rollins was 14 and met Pressler at Houston’s First Baptist Church. Pressler held volunteer leadership roles at the church and enrolled Rollins in Bible study, the suit says.

The suit alleges that Pressler began molesting and raping Rollins in his master bedroom study and that the abuse lasted until 2004.

Rollins sued Pressler over the same claims in 2004 in civil court and they settled the case. Rollins and his attorney, Daniel Shea, filed the new action in October, claiming that Pressler had stopped making the $1,500-per-month payments that were supposed to continue until 2029. Shea also filed affidavits in the case from two more men who claim Pressler groped or solicited them.

The new lawsuit named not only Pressler, but also his wife, Nancy; Jared Woodfill, his 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. Rollins sought $1 million in damages in the suit.

Sandill dismissed five of the eight claims in that case, including assault by offensive physical contact, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligence.

The claims of libel, slander and breach of fiduciary duty still stand. The libel and slander claims pertain to comments made by Woodfill after Rollins filed the case accusing him and Shea of trying to extort money from the SBC. The breach of fiduciary duty claim pertains to Pressler allegedly stopping payments from the 2004 settlement.  

Johnny Kampis can be reached at [email protected].

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