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Retired baseball star Ben Zobrist has filed a lawsuit alleging that his former minister had a sexual relationship with his wife and defrauded his charity foundation.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Zobrist is seeking $6 million in damages in the lawsuit against Byron Yawn, his former pastor and current CEO of a Nashville-area counseling firm.
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The lawsuit was reportedly filed last month in Nashville Circuit Court.
Zobrist and his wife Julianna started attending the Community Bible Church in 2005.
Yawn, the senior pastor at that church, reportedly started serving as the couple’s pre-marital counsellor that year. Yawn is no longer associated with the church.
Zobrist - who won the 2016 World Series with the Chicago Cubs - claims he repeatedly sought counselling from Yawn in the years that followed, including when he was experiencing anxiety and depression.
Yawn also officiated the public dedication of the couple's three infant children.
In 2018, Yawn allegedly started having daily conversations with Julianna and “began secretly pursuing an intimate relationship” with her a month later.
Zobrist claims Yawn regularly started “meeting her for sex” by the following spring.
Zobrist said that while Yawn was still serving as their counsellor, he kept having his relationship with Julianna and the two started using “burner phones” to keep it secret.
Ben and Julianna filed for divorce in 2019. He missed significant time with the Cubs that season, and lost about $8 million in income while trying to fix his marriage, according to the report.
The lawsuit claims Julianna admitted to the relationship with Yawn last summer.
While he was allegedly sleeping with Julianna, Yawn was also working for Zobrist’s charity and making $36,000 annually for doing so.
Zobrist was also paying $10,000 a month to Yawn’s church and once paid between $10,000-$15,000 to fund a “pastoral trip” for Yawn’s family.
Byron Yawn terminated from position last summer
Yawn was terminated from his position as the charity’s executive director in March 2019, but allegedly cashed salary cheques through May that year.
Yawn “usurped the ministerial-counsellor role, violated and betrayed the confidence entrusted to him by the plaintiff, breached his fiduciary duty owed to the plaintiff and deceitfully used his access as counsellor to engage in an inappropriate sexual relationship with the plaintiff’s wife,” the lawsuit reportedly reads.
Yawn’s attorney Christopher Bellamy declined to comment much about the lawsuit but said that his client “deserves his day in court and for the truth to be heard.”
“At the end of the day, a woman has the right to choose who she wants to be with,” Bellamy told the Tribune.
“We’re in the middle of litigation, so I can’t really comment further at this point, but that’s what it boils down to.”
Zobrist played MLB from 2006-19, spending his first nine seasons with Tampa Bay before he played the 2015 season with the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals.
He wrapped up his career with the Cubs, and helped lead them to the World Series in 2016 in which he was named the World Series MVP.
Ryan Young - Yahoo Sports
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