“A Texas man is accusing a Christian author and personal branding expert from Williamson County of sexually molesting him as a 12-year-old child 40 years ago.
But Robert D. Smith, who has worked in the Christian arts and publishing industry for decades, denies Jim Cochrun’s career-damaging allegations and is trying to prevent him from sharing them with more people.
Those details are laid out in federal court documents. Smith is suing Cochrun for defamation and requested a temporary restraining order to stop him from continuing to publish the accusations. He is seeking $750,000 in damages.
“All such allegations made by (Cochrun) are false,” the lawsuit says. “The allegations have ruined (Smith’s) reputation and character and business relationships.”
Texas attorney George Edwards, who is representing Cochrun, said in a news release that his client has no reason to lie and that truth is a strong defense in a defamation case.
“Being sued by your abuser is understandably shocking,” Edwards said. “Jim has never sought money from his abuser. His motivation is that justice is done and that any other victims who may exist are empowered to come forward. The good news for Jim and other victims like him is that they will defend these allegations with the truth.”
A detailed description of the abuse, said to have occurred in 1978 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is included in Cochrun’s response to the court challenge. The response was filed March 29 in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee. Cochrun also recently filed a report with the Tulsa Police Department about the abuse, his attorney said.
At the time, Cochrun was 12 years old and Smith was his youth pastor at a church where his dad served as music minister. While visiting Smith’s home in 1978, Smith invited Cochrun into his bedroom and the sexual assault occurred, the court documents say. It was the first of several instances that followed, the court filings state.
Smith and his attorney’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, but they laid out their case in their lawsuit.
Originally filed Feb. 12 in Williamson County Chancery Court and later moved to the federal court, the lawsuit says Cochrun called and wrote Smith’s business colleagues about the “defamatory and false allegations.” The lawsuit argues that as a result, Smith’s professional relationships were damaged and he suffered economic loss.
“Sometime during the fall of 2017, Defendant Jim Cochrun set a plan in motion that has destroyed everything the plaintiff had built and done over his entire career,” the lawsuit says.
Court documents explain that Andy Andrews, a best-selling Christian author who Smith managed for 38 years, cut ties with Smith and “wrestled control” of their joint business ventures, which include Lightening Crown Publishing Inc. The company was operated out of Smith’s Williamson County home and employed about 20 staff and contractors.
Andrews posted on Facebook in December about the end of his business relationship with Smith, but did not specify why it happened.
“I am releasing the following unfortunate, but necessary message: As of Saturday, December 2, 2017, I have ended the relationship with my longtime manager, Robert D. Smith,” Andrews’ post said.
Andrews clarified in a note posted in January on Facebook that he severed personal and professional ties with Smith because of “multiple allegations of child sexual abuse with preadolescent males.”
Smith, who wrote “20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now,” also lost a publishing contract with Nashville-based Christian publisher Thomas Nelson due to the allegations, the lawsuit said.
Cochrun also has shared or attempted to share the allegations with several people in the arts, publishing and entertainment industry.
He reached out to those who endorsed Smith’s book, including Smith’s pastor, the court documents state. The two men spoke on the phone on Dec. 3, the lawsuit says. They both recorded the conversation and Cochrun shared a portion of it with others. The clip, “taken out of context,” put Smith in a “false light that was highly offensive,” according to the lawsuit.
Cochrun denies he placed Smith in a false light, the court documents say.
Clarification: Andy Andrews said in a December post on Facebook that he was cutting ties with his longtime manager, Robert D. Smith, but he did not say why. In January, Andrews explained further in a Facebook note that their personal and professional relationship ended because of child abuse allegations. Smith is suing a Texas man who has accused him of abuse.”