Former Chicago Cubs player Ben Zobrist has filed a lawsuit accusing his former pastor of having a sexual relationship with his wife Julianna Zobrist and defrauding his charity.
According to the complaint, which was filed by the 40-year-old on May 6, Byron Yawn allegedly "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" while acting as the executive director of Ben's charity and the former couple's marital counselor.
Ben is reportedly seeking $6 million in damages.
"At the end of the day, a woman has the right to choose who she wants to be with," Yawn’s attorney, Christopher Bellamy told the Chicago 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."
"My client deserves his day in court and for the truth to be heard, and so we’re going to do that through the court process," the attorney added.
In 2019, Zobrist put his baseball career on hold for four months while he and his wife, Julianna, worked on their marital issues. According to the lawsuit obtained by the Journal Star, he lost approximately $8 million during that time.
According to the lawsuit, Yawn provided pre- and post-marital counseling for the pair, and he counseled Ben though anxiety and depression. But beginning in August 2018, Yawn spoke with Julianna daily and their sexual relationship allegedly began in spring 2019, lasting around a year.
Yawn and Julianna allegedly used prepaid cellphones to speak to one another, which was discovered by Yawn's wife Robin Yawn in May 2019. Robin alerted Ben and said she believed her husband and his wife were having an emotional affair.
Ben was reportedly unaware that the relationship was sexual, the lawsuit read. Julianna admitted the nature of the relationship and revealed that she had lied to her husband in response to written requests for admission during divorce proceedings.
Ben also alleged that Yawn defrauded his charity for athletes, which promotes mental health and helps them transition after their career ends. The pastor is said to have "drafted his own job description as executive director" in December 2018.
According to the lawsuit, Ben was paying $10,000 per month to Yawn’s church and $10,000 to $15,000 to fund a "pastoral trip" for Yawn and his family.
In March 2019, Yawn was reportedly fired but "somehow continued to fraudulently receive salary checks until May of 2019.” The suit claims he cashed the checks despite knowing he was fired.
Ben is seeking damages for breach of fiduciary duty and intentional infliction of emotional distress. According to the athlete, Yawn's behavior constitute “outrageous conduct."
Ben reportedly filed for divorce in May 2019 in Williamson County, Tenn., while Julianna filed a counter-complaint in March 2020. The cases are said to be pending.