A former Texas state judge will have to defend himself in a sexual assault lawsuit that alleges he molested a man over a span of 35 years.
Paul Pressler, a retired justice of the Texas 14th Circuit Court of Appeals and a key figure in the “conservative resurgence” of the Southern Baptist Convention, has been accused of molesting Gareld Duane Rollins, Jr., beginning in 1979, when Rollins was 14, until 2014.
Others named in the lawsuit include Pressler’s wife, his law firm partner, the First Baptist Church of Houston, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and its president, Rev. Paige Patterson. The suit was filed in October and seeks $1 million in damages.
A report in the Texas Monitor explains:
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.
After Rollins was released from prison, he worked for Pressler as a personal assistant. In 2004, Rollins was arrested for driving under the influence and over the next 10 years spent time in jail for a variety of offenses.
The lawsuit’s case file includes a letter from a psychiatrist who says Rollins may be suffering from post-traumatic stress brought on by childhood sexual trauma.
Aside from his time on the bench, Pressler served in the Texas House representing Harris County as a Democrat for one term from 1957 to 1959. He became a Republican in the late 1970’s and has served on the Texas Republican State Executive Committee.
Pressler has been a senior partner with the Houston law firm of Woodfill and Pressler since 2000. His law partner, Jared Woodfill, is president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas which has been named an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In an interview with Quorum Report, Woodfill said the suit was meant to “extort money from the Southern Baptist Convention” and vowed to “fight it tooth and nail.”