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Southern Baptist Convention settles sexual abuse lawsuit brought by male victim of retired judge with close ties to Texas GOP

The Southern Baptist Convention and other defendants have reached a confidential settlement with four plaintiffs led by a man who claimed one of its former leaders, retired far-right Texas Judge Paul Pressler, had sexually abused him for decades beginning in 1977 when the man was a 14 year-old member of a youth group led by Pressler, the Texas Tribune reports on a case that exposed the complicity of Pressler’s law partner Jared Woodfill, a Houston-area extremist anti-LGBTQ MAGA activist currently running for a seat in the state House and then its Speakership.

The original plaintiff, Duane Rollins, filed the lawsuit against the SBC, Pressler, Woodfill, and other leaders in 2017 after spending decades in and out of prison and suffering from drug and alcohol addiction as a result of the trauma he endured. The three other plaintiffs later joined the lawsuit, but they were not the only ones to come forward with accusations against Pressler, a former Vice President of the SBC who was instrumental in making homophobia an important part of the “faith.” In his public career as a Texas state Representative and state appeals court judge, Pressler was also President George HW Bush’s nominee for Office of Government Ethics chief in 1989 until he withdrew due to – wait for it – ethics issues. Weasel-faced Texas Senator Ted Cruz was of course among scores of Lone Star State politicians who lobbied heavily for Pressler’s endorsement in GOP primaries over the last several decades. Cruz said he’s known Pressler since he was a teenager.

The trial had been postponed twice but was finally set to kick off in February before the SBC threw in the towel, confirming the settlement in a statement to the Tribune. In it the church leadership claimed they had been “fully prepared” to litigate the case until “several factors ultimately made settlement the more prudent choice. Chief among those factors was the horrendous nature of the abuse allegations, the likelihood that counsel for the SBC and Executive Committee would have to confront and cross-examine abuse survivors, the Executive Committee’s current financial condition, and the willingness of multiple insurance carriers to contribute to the terms of the settlement.”

Woodfill, the former Harris County Republican Chairman linked to all sorts of “Stop the Steal” and MAGA anti-vax bullshit, has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, even though his testimony in a deposition in the case where Woodfill admitted he knew of Pressler’s proclivities was contradicted by a 2016 email exchange with a then-25 year-old lawyer at Pressler and Woodfill’s firm. The lawyer had told Woodfill that Old Man Pressler had told him all sorts of “lewd stories about being naked on beaches with young men” and invited the kid to go skinny dipping at his ranch. “This 85-year-old man has never made any inappropriate comments or actions toward me or any one I know of,” wrote Woodfill in his dismissal of young man’s complaint. In the deposition Woodfill told the plaintiff’s attorneys that he first learned of the accusations against Pressler in 2004.

The two are still law partners 20 years later. Pressler hasn’t been paid in a while, and Woodfill’s only way of compensating him was sending young male lawyers to go work out of Pressler’s mansion.

“We are fighting the insurance company and oppose any payment,” Woodfill told the Tribune in a text message. Last week a Harris County judge signed off on a settlement motion and declared “all claims, counterclaims and controversies” in the suit were resolved. Woodfill faces Texas state House District 138 GOP primary voters on March 5th as he seeks to unseat “RINO” incumbent state Representative Lacey Hull, one of the 60 Republicans in the chamber to vote to impeach Picasso-faced white collar crimelord and hardcore 2020 election denier Attorney General Ken Paxton in May.

Paxton announced his endorsement of Woodfill on December 6th.

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