Retired Judge Paul Pressler says a lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse is time-barred by the statute of limitations.
Pressler, 87, a prominent lay leader in the Southern Baptist Convention credited with developing the strategy for the denomination’s rightward shift in the last century, filed a motion for summary judgment — a court order in which a judge decides undisputable facts without benefit of a trial — Dec. 21 in Harris County, Texas.
In the motion, Pressler, a retired justice on Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals and one-time state representative, and his wife, Nancy, “vehemently deny” claims by Gareld Duane Rollins Jr. of sexual abuse beginning when the now 53-year-old Houston resident was 14 years old and continuing for the next 25 years.
But Pressler says the court does not need to decide who is telling the truth, because the window of opportunity for Rollins’ recent lawsuit closed eight years ago. The filing says claims of repressed memory and unsound mind by Rollins “fail as a matter of law” to get around the statute of limitations.
A hearing on the summary judgment motion is set for Feb. 23.
Rollins — who has been arrested 11 times for driving while intoxicated, drug possession, theft and burglary — claims his injuries were not discovered due to “repressed and disassociated” memory and years of drug and alcohol abuse until he began seeing a prison psychologist in 2015.
Rollins’ current psychiatrist, Harvey Rosenstock of Bellaire, Texas, says his patient suffered from undiagnosed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and “unsound mind” that “undoubtedly adversely affected his decision making for years.”
Rollins seeks more than $1 million in damages from the Presslers and other parties including “conservative resurgence” co-founder Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, First Baptist Church of Houston and Pressler’s former law partner, Jared Woodfill.
All deny wrongdoing. Patterson and the seminary want the case moved from Houston to Fort Worth. A change-of-venue hearing is scheduled on Jan. 17.
Rollins, represented by Houston attorney Daniel Shea, filed an amended petition Dec. 14 adding an additional cause of action — slander and libel — to the original claims, which include assault, conspiracy, fraud, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The new allegation relates to public comments on Pressler’s behalf by attorney Woodfill accusing Rollins of a criminal act in filing the lawsuit to “extort” money from the Southern Baptist Convention, a non-party in the pending litigation.
Shea called the statement “false and malicious” and claimed it entitles his client to actual and punitive damages.