The legal representative for a disgraced former Texas megachurch pastor once blamed the 12-year-old victim for initiating the alleged sexual conduct.

Robert Morris, who founded the Dallas-area Gateway Church in 2000, resigned as senior pastor last month after a woman came forward with sexual abuse allegations dating back to the early 1980s when he was 21.

And, according to a report, the lawyer representing Morris in 2007 blamed the victim, Cindy Clemishire, when she threated to file a lawsuit.

“It was your client who initiated inappropriate behaviour by coming into my client’s bedroom and getting in bed with him, which my client should not have allowed to happen,” wrote lawyer J. Shelby Sharpe, according to NBC News.

The letter, dated Feb. 6, 2007, was part of a series of exchanges between Clemishire’s attorney and Sharpe.

Clemishire, now 54, told the outlet that, at the time, she had been seeking $50,000 in restitution from Morris to cover counselling costs. Morris’ legal rep countered with a $25,000 offer.

However, negotiations fell apart after Clemishire refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“I don’t ever remember seeing that,” Sharpe told an NBC reporter after being read the document. He denied knowing the victim was 12 at the time even though it is mentioned in the letter.

“I can tell you that the letters that you’ve seen, they speak for themselves,” added Sharpe, who declined to receive a copy of the documents via email. “I will not amplify beyond those letters because they speak for themselves.”


Sharpe no longer represents Morris. Morris didn’t respond to messages from the outlet.

Last month, Clemishire shared accusations of sexual abuse with a church and religion watchdog website.

She said her family first met Morris at a youth revival in Tulsa in 1981 when he was a 20-year-old travelling evangelist who was married.

“He would often stay at her home and sometimes bring his wife, Debbie, and their little boy, Josh,” according to The Wartburg Watch. “Robert and Debbie Morris quickly became family friends, and Cindy viewed them as safe and friendly. Their families would often go on trips with each other.”

That all changed on Christmas night in 1982. Clemishire alleged that Morris asked her to visit him in his room.

“She thought nothing of visiting a family friend in their bedroom. He told her to lie down on her back and touched her stomach. He told her to close her eyes. Then he touched her breasts and felt under her panties,” the website alleged.

Clemishire said Morris warned her not say what happened. “Never tell anyone about this because it will ruin everything,” she remember him saying.

She alleges Morris continued the sexual abuse until March 1987.

Days following the abuse allegations, Morris resigned from the megachurch.

“Gateway Church is committed to protecting people — first and foremost children and the most vulnerable,” Lawrence Swicegood, a church spokesperson, said in an email. “Abuse simply cannot be tolerated.”