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Ex-baseball pro Ben Zobrist is going to bat after his wife allegedly had an affair with their pastor.
In May, the two-time World Series champion filed a lawsuit in Nashville against pastor Byron Yawn for having an “inappropriate sexual relationship” with his wife of 15 years, Julianna Zobrist, according to the complaint obtained by E! News. Ben is seeking $3 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages from Byron.
The lawsuit states that Byron was the Senior Pastor and Elder at Community Bible Church; named Executive Director of Ben’s organization known as the Patriot Forward Charity; and the owner of the consulting business Forrest Crain & Company.
Per the suit, Byron was the couple’s trusted “spiritual mentor,” with the couple attending pre-marital counseling with Byron in 2005, and then marriage counseling in 2013 due to issues with “pornography.”
According to the Chicago Cubs star, Byron started speaking “daily” with Julianna, an inspirational speaker and author, beginning in August 2018.
“Unbeknownst to [Ben], in September 2018, during the time that he was providing pastoral counseling to [Ben], [Byron] also began secretly pursuing an intimate relationship with [Ben’s] wife,” the lawsuit reads.
He alleges their “romantic involvement” escalated in the spring of 2019, “when he began meeting her for sex.” Byron and Julianna are accused in the complaint of using “burner phones” to secretly communicate.
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Their affair allegedly continued until the spring of 2020, “all the while concealing it from the Plaintiff, his counselee,” per the suit.
Ben’s legal team claims that Byron “exploited” his counseling sessions with Ben to “deceptively” encourage the athlete to “give his wife some space.” The lawsuit claims he used the confidential counseling information to “his own self-seeking advantage” and “further cement his illicit relationship” with Julianna.
Byron’s attorney, Chris Bellamy, says in a statement to E! News: “At the end of the day, a woman has the right to choose who she wants to be with.” The lawyer added, “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.”
On June 16, Byron and his team filed a motion to seek more time to respond beyond the June 21 deadline, which Ben’s legal team did not oppose.
Within the same lawsuit, Ben also accuses Byron of taking advantage of his Patriot Forward charity, where the church leader worked in content development, copyrighting and more. He allegedly used his role in the charity as an “excuse” to meet with Julianna.
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In September 2018, Byron allegedly emailed a proposed budget that included a $36,000 annual salary for himself. He was terminated as Executive Director in March 2019, when he was being paid $3,500 a month. He then “fraudulently” continued to receive his salary until May 2019, cashing checks “wi