Ex-Cubs star Ben Zobrist alleges former pastor had affair with his wife, defrauded charity in lawsuit

·3-min read
Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs
Ben Zobrist, seen here in 2019, is seeking $6 million in damages amid claims that his former pastor was sleeping with his wife and defrauding his charity. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Former Chicago Cubs star Ben Zobrist filed a lawsuit last month 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. It was filed last month in Nashville Circuit Court.

Zobrist alleges their pastor had sexual relationship with his wife

Zobrist and his wife, Julianna, started attending the Community Bible Church in 2005. Yawn, the senior pastor at that church, started serving as the couple’s pre-marital counselor that year, per the report. Yawn is no longer associated with the church.

Zobrist repeatedly sought counseling from Yawn in the years that followed, including when he was experiencing anxiety and depression in 2016, the lawsuit said. Yawn also officiated the public dedication of their three infant children.

In 2018, per the report, Yawn started having daily conversations with Julianna and “began secretly pursuing an intimate relationship” with her a month later. By the following spring, Zobrist alleges, Yawn regularly started “meeting her for sex”.

Zobrist said that while Yawn was still serving as their counselor, 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, per the report. Julianna admitted to the relationship with Yawn last summer, according to the lawsuit.

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.

Yawn was terminated from his position as the charity’s executive director in March 2019, but allegedly cashed salary checks through May that year.

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 lawsuit read, via the Tribune.

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 in the league from 2006-19. The utility player spent his first nine seasons with Tampa Bay before he spent 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.

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