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Onetime Chicago Cubs baseball star Ben Zobrist is seeking millions in damages after accusing his former minister of having an affair with his wife and bilking his charity, according to a bombshell lawsuit filed in Nashville Circuit Court.
Zobrist, the 2016 World Series MVP, filed a lawsuit in May seeking $6 million in punitive and compensatory damages against Byron Yawn, who served roughly two decades as a senior pastor and elder at a Nashville church that the couple attended. Yawn later also managed a charity for athletes that Zobrist founded.
While serving as both a premarital counselor to the couple and executive director to Zobrist’s charity Patriot Forward, Yawn “usurped the ministerial-counselor 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 counselor to engage in an inappropriate sexual relationship with the plaintiff’s wife,” the complaint says.
According to the complaint, Zobrist and his wife first submitted to premarital counseling with Yawn at Community Bible Church in 2005 and regularly sought advice from Yawn about “how to strengthen their marriage relationship.”
It was years later, in 2018, that the couple’s now former pastor allegedly began having calls “on a daily basis” with Julianna Zobrist. According to the complaint, Yawn’s “romantic involvement with Ms. Zobrist escalated in the spring of 2019, when he began meeting her for sex.”
The affair allegedly continued until spring 2020 and was kept secret through “burner phones,” first discovered by Yawn’s wife. All the while, the pastor continued to serve as a counselor to Ben Zobrist.
Ben and Julianna Zobrist each filed for divorce in May 2019, and the baseball star claims he “forfeited months of the 2019 season,” causing him to lose approximately $8 million in income as he tried to rescue his crumbling marriage, the lawsuit alleges.
Zobrist also alleges in the suit that Yawn continued to “fraudulently” receive salary checks months after he was fired from an executive role in Patriot Forward in March 2019, “and he cashed these checks with full knowledge that his position had been terminated” until May 2019.
Yawn had previously negotiated $3,500 monthly for the role he played in the charity.
Meanwhile, Zobrist notes in the complaint that he tithed $10,000 per month to Yawn’s church, made donations when requested by Yawn, and paid a special gift of $10,000-$15,000 to fund a “pastoral trip” for the Yawn family.