Jesse Ventura wins $1.8 million in defamation case against SEAL sniper
Jesse Ventura filed a lawsuit against the estate of the late former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, claiming that Kyle's published account of a bar fight with Ventura was false and cost him TV and public speaking revenue.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura won $1.8 million Tuesday in his two-year fight to prove he was defamed by a military sniper and best-selling author who claimed to have punched out Ventura at a bar for insulting the US Navy SEALs.
A federal jury sided with Ventura in his lawsuit against "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle. Though Ventura honed a tough-guy reputation as a pro wrestler and action movie actor, he maintained the legal battle was about clearing his name among his beloved fellow Navy SEALs, not about losing a supposed fight.
Kyle — reputed to be the deadliest sniper in US military history — said in his memoir that he punched Ventura in 2006 after Ventura said the SEALs "deserved to lose a few" in Iraq. Ventura disputed that the confrontation, including the punch, ever happened.
Ventura wasn't present for the verdict and didn't immediately return messages left at his home. His attorney, David Bradley Olson, said Ventura felt there were "no real winners in this trial."
After Kyle was killed last year at a Texas gun range, Ventura's lawsuit moved forward with Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, as the defendant. She wasn't in court to hear the verdict. John Borger, an attorney for Kyle's estate, said she was "surprised and upset" when he gave her the news.
Borger said the family would consider an appeal.
At least some of that money will be covered by "American Sniper" publisher HarperCollins' insurance policy.
Olsen said Ventura's side will ask HarperCollins to remove the disputed section from the book.
Ventura testified that his income as a television personality fell sharply as job offers dried up in the wake of "American Sniper." Borger said Ventura's career as an entertainer was in decline well before that.
Associated Press writer Brian Bakst contributed to this report.
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