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$1.4 million for woman abused by former pastor

$1.4 million for woman abused by former pastor

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Donald Budd

Donald Budd.

A jury has awarded $1.4 million to a woman who was sexually abused by a pastor at Winona’s McKinley United Methodist Church.

Donald Dean Budd, 67, must pay the woman $1 million in punitive damages and a portion of $410,000 in compensatory damages, awarded late this week by a Hennepin County jury.

The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which oversees McKinley, must pay about $164,000 of the compensatory damages.

“The jury came back with a very responsible and reasonable verdict,” said Robert Hajek, the woman’s attorney.

A woman who answered the phone at the office of Budd’s attorney, Timothy Waldeck, said Waldeck left Friday afternoon for a week-long vacation and was unavailable for comment.

Attempts to reach Budd, who is no longer a pastor, were unsuccessful.

The awards stem from a civil suit filed in June 2009, connected to a period between 2003 and 2005 when the woman sought counseling from Budd, then the pastor at McKinley. An inappropriate sexual relationship

developed, leading to Budd’s eventual conviction on felony sexual-abuse charges.

The woman reported the relationship in September 2006 to the conference, which initially investigated the woman’s claims, then dropped the investigation and called the woman uncooperative and not credible, according to court documents.

The civil suit claimed the conference failed in investigating Budd’s sexual misconduct and that its request during the investigation for the woman to sign a document agreeing to keep her accusations private was outrageous.

Victoria Rebeck, a spokesperson for the conference, said Friday that the agreement was related to a mediation session the woman had requested between herself and Budd, and did not restrict the woman’s legal options.

Rebeck also said the conference and its bishop, Sally Dyck, acted immediately when notified in 2006 about the allegations, 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.”

Later in 2006, the woman turned to the Winona Police Department, whose investigation led to criminal charges filed against Budd in January 2007.

Budd pleaded guilty in March 2009 to two counts of felony criminal sexual conduct, admitting he touched the woman inappropriately both at her home and in the men’s room in McKinley’s basement. He was sentenced in May 2009 to 15 years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender. He can’t serve as a pastor while on probation.

The woman had first sought counseling in 2003 after the death of her grandfather, court documents state. Over time, the counseling sessions grew personal, and the woman developed strong feelings for Budd in a common psychotherapy phenomenon described simply as a patient who “falls in love” with a therapist, according to the civil suit. Sometimes the therapist develops similar feelings for the patient, but is trained to reject them and refer the patient to another therapist, according to court documents.

The suit claimed that after those feelings developed, Budd did not end counseling and instead pursued an inappropriate relationship with the woman.

Budd offered in July 2010 to pay the woman $10,000 to settle the case, said Hajek, the woman’s attorney, and said the conference offered to pay $20,000.

In December 2009, the woman was awarded $10,000 in a separate civil suit she filed against Budd that sought compensation for medical and counseling bills.

Budd came to Winona in 2002 from serving the tiny Minnesota communities of Sargeant and Brownsdale, near Austin, Minn. Prior to that Budd had also served in Methodist churches in Harmony, Minn., and in Eau Claire, Wis.

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Punitive damages are designed to act as punishment and deter others from engaging in similar behavior, whereas compensatory damages are meant …

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