The attorney representing a man alleging sexual abuse by former Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler is seeking a delay in court proceedings after police raided one of the parties named in a lawsuit originally filed in 2017.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Monday that authorities raided the law office of former Harris County Republican Party chairman Jared Woodfill. Woodfill, Pressler’s former law partner, is one of several parties accused by a Houston man of culpability in abuse alleged to have begun in the late 1970s.
A judge recently dismissed the abuse charges against Pressler, citing statute of limitations, but a dispute over whether filing the lawsuit violated a confidentiality clause in settlement of a previous lawsuit in 2004 remains unresolved.
Another remaining cause of action – slander and libel – directly involves Woodfill. Upon learning he was among a number of individuals and organizations named in the suit, Woodfill allegedly told a Religion News Service reporter: “This is a frivolous lawsuit filed by an ex-con in an attempt to extort money from the Pressler family, Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, First Baptist Church of Houston and me.”
Court documents call that “a slanderous statement” accusing Gareld Duane Rollins – now in his 50s with a history of arrests that he blames on drug and alcohol addiction brought about by the trauma of childhood sex abuse – of committing a criminal act.
Rollins’ attorney, Daniel Shea, claims Woodfill made the extortion charge “with full knowledge of its erroneous content.”
According to a returned search warrant filed Tuesday, authorities from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office seized 127 boxes of files, six computers and disk drives from the offices of Woodfill Law Firm, P.C.
The warrant, issued Sunday, said investigators are looking for evidence of felony offenses including “misapplication of fiduciary property, theft and money laundering” involving a former client who hired Woodfill to file for divorce from her husband of 19 years in 2013.
In a court document filed Nov. 13, Shea asked the judge to delay proceedings in Rollins’ case until more is known about the reasons behind the raid. “Given the possibility that material relevant to this case has been seized, sufficient cause exists for continuance of this suit until clearance to proceed is obtained from the Harris County District Attorney,” the filing said.
In a ninth amended complaint filed Nov. 8, Shea claimed a copy of the confidential settlement previously agreed to by both Pressler and Rollins provided to the court was “materially altered” from the original document signed in 2004.
A condition of that settlement was that Rollins and Shea turn over all records pertaining to the case. A copy of the agreement in the current case file, provided by Woodfill, appears to show the letters “LLP” – a standard abbreviation for limited liability partnership – penciled in after a sentence declaring release from the firm Woodfill & Presser without initials by either Pressler or Rollins verifying the change.
Woodfill served as chairman of the Harris County Republican Party from 2002 until 2014. In 2015 he was spokesman for a campaign to repeal an equal rights ordinance in Houston prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.