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Moorhead stripper involved in pastor scandal pleads guilty to coercion

Bunny Byington

A Moorhead stripper accused of blackmailing a minister from Valley City, N.D., pleaded guilty on Friday to a felony charge of coercion.

At a plea hearing in Clay County District Court, 46-year-old Bunny Byington admitted that she threatened to expose the pastor, who paid her for nude dancing and then later for sex, unless he provided her with thousands in hush money.

"Absolutely, yes," said Byington when asked if she threatened the man, who isn't named in court records but has been identified as the Rev. Mark S. Ostgarden.

A joint recommendation from prosecutors and Byington's attorney call for her to serve 90 days in jail and pay restitution, including the $7,000 she got from Ostgarden before he balked at her demands for more.

Byington originally faced three felony counts linked to the extortion. She's set to be sentenced on Oct. 19 and was ordered by Judge Lisa Borgen to avoid any contact with Ostgarden.

Court documents state:

Ostgarden found Byington through a classified ad in The Forum, paying her $100 a shot for a half-hour nude dance. He began contacting her every few months for another appointment, paying a little extra to touch her.

As time went on, he began paying $200 each time for sex.

In March, Byington told him he no longer had to pay her and to consider their relationship an affair. They saw each other every week until May 14, when the demands began.

By June 5, Ostgarden had paid Byington $7,000, cash slipped under her apartment door in envelopes. She then insisted he pay her another $18,000.

When Ostgarden said he could not come up with more money, Byington contacted his wife and church officials.

Ostgarden resigned after meeting with his bishop to discuss the situation. Byington had sent the bishop a photograph of Ostgarden lying on a bed wearing underwear and a t-shirt