Why did Ben Zobrist drop lawsuit against Byron Yawn? Pastor, Julianna now 'emotionally secure'
Former Major League Baseball star Ben Zobrist has reportedly dropped his $6-million-lawsuit against Byron Yawn, the pastor who was having an extramarital affair with his estranged wife Julianna Zobrist. The athlete filed the lawsuit in May 2021 through a Tennessee circuit court. He claimed that the pastor manipulated him and created distance between him and Julianna under the guise of counseling their marriage. He also alleged that Yawn defrauded his charity.
As per the lawsuit, Yawn, “while acting in his capacity as a pastoral counselor to” the Zobrists, “usurped this ministerial-counselor role, violated and betrayed the confidence entrusted to him by” Ben and “deceitfully used his access as counselor to engage in an inappropriate sexual relationship” with Julianna.
Ben and Julianna got married in 2005 and have three children. The couple reportedly met Yawn more than 16 years ago at the Community Bible Church. The suit claimed that Yawn served as their pastor, and was also accepted into their lives as a “spiritual mentor,” who provided pre-marital counseling for the couple in 2005.
Why did Ben Zobrist drop the lawsuit?
According to a court document obtained by the Chicago Tribune, attorney Larry Crain filed a notice on Thursday, August 12, in Nashville Circuit Court voluntarily withdrawing the claim. The type of notice — “without prejudice” — however, leaves the door open for Zobrist to refile the lawsuit within a year. This comes alongside the Zobrists' divorce trial. The notice reportedly did not list a reason why Zobrist decided to drop the case.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Yawn’s attorney, Christopher Bellamy, told the Tribune. “I’m suspicious for their reasons but I’m optimistic that he’ll continue to do the right things.” In July, Yawn’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case, denying that any fraud was committed and arguing that the “meritless” suit was an attempt to blame Yawn for Zobrist’s marital problems.
Yawn’s attorney also said that the pastor and Julianna considered themselves a couple now. “For the past two years Mr Yawn and Ms Zobrist have been in a healthy and emotionally secure relationship,” Bellamy said.
The lawsuit alleged that in 2007, and again in 2016-2017, Ben Zobrist entered into counseling with Yawn “with respect to certain struggles he was encountering with anxiety and depression.” It also stated that Ben and Julianna “regularly sought the advice and counsel of” Yawn as their pastor and counselor in how to “strengthen their marriage relationship” in 2013, and were involved in counseling offered through Yawn's church “dealing with pornography.”
“Commencing in August of 2018. Mr Yawn began having regular conversations with Plaintiff's wife, Julianna Zobrist on a daily basis,” the suit stated. “Unbeknownst to Plaintiff, in September of 2018, during the time that he was providing pastoral counseling to Mr Zobrist, Defendant also began secretly pursuing an intimate relationship with Mr Zobrist's wife. Defendant's romantic involvement with Ms Zobrist escalated in the spring of 2019. when he began meeting her for sex.”
While acting in a pastoral role toward Ben and his wife, the lawsuit alleged, Yawn gained access to personal and private information — he became aware of “small fissures in the marital relationship” and exploited this private information. In 2019, Yawn allegedly encouraged Ben to "give his wife some space". All the while, he was allegedly using the confidential information shared with him by Ben to his own “self-seeking advantage and in derogation of the Plaintiff's personal, emotional or spiritual well-being,” the baseball player alleged.