WINONA, Minn. (AP) — A jury has awarded $1.4 million to a Minnesota woman who accused her Methodist pastor of sexually abusing her.
The woman accused 67-year-old Donald Dean Budd of pursuing an inappropriate relationship at a time when she was emotionally vulnerable.
The Hennepin County jury concluded this week that Budd must pay $1 million in punitive damages. Of another $410,000 in compensatory damages, Budd must pay $246,000 and the rest is to be paid by the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
A call to Budd's home Saturday rang unanswered, and a message left with his attorney wasn't immediately returned. The woman's attorney, Robert Hajek, said the jury's verdict was "very responsible and reasonable."
Budd was a pastor at McKinley United Methodist Church in Winona. Prior to that, he served in Methodist churches in Harmony, Minn., and Eau Claire, Wis. He is no longer a pastor.
The woman filed a civil lawsuit in 2009, alleging that she sought counseling from Budd while he was a pastor at McKinley between 2003 and 2005. A sexual relationship developed, leading to Budd's eventual conviction on a pair of felony sexual-abuse charges.
The woman said she reported the relationship to the conference in 2006. She accused officials of dropping the investigation and calling the woman uncooperative and not credible, court documents said.
Her civil lawsuit claimed that the conference should have done a better job of investigating Budd's sexual misconduct, according to a Winona Daily News report.
Victoria Rebeck, a spokeswoman for the conference, disputed the charge. She said the conference and its bishop acted immediately when notified about the allegations by placing Budd on restriction and removing his credentials.
"We take all allegations against pastors seriously," Rebeck said. "We are committed to doing everything we can to create a safe environment for our people."
The woman later turned to police, whose investigation led to criminal charges being filed against Budd in 2007. Budd admitted that he touched the woman inappropriately at her home and in the men's bathroom in McKinley's basement.
He pleaded guilty in 2009 to two counts of felony criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 15 years of probation.
The woman first sought counseling in 2003 after her grandfather died, court documents say. She said the counseling sessions grew personal and she began to develop strong feelings for Budd.
However, instead of ending counseling and referring her to another therapist, Budd pursued an inappropriate relationship with her, according to the woman's lawsuit.
Hajek, the woman's attorney, said Budd and the conference offered last year to pay $30,000 to settle the case.
In 2009, the woman was awarded $10,000 in a separate civil suit against Budd that sought compensation for medical and counseling bills.
Information from: Winona Daily News, http://www.winonadailynews.com