St. Paul, MN- After a two year fight, former Minnesota Governor and television host Jesse Ventura has been awarded $1.8 million dollars in his defamation case against the estate of sniper and best selling author Chris Kyle. Kyle, who was regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history had claimed in his book, “American Sniper” that he had punched out Ventura in a Los Angeles bar for bad-mouthing Navy SEALs.
The story, which was published in Kyle’s memoir, claimed that he punched Ventura in California in 2006 after Ventura said the SEALs “deserved to lose a few” in Iraq. Ventura disputed that the confrontation, including the punch, ever happened.
In “American Sniper” Kyle does not recount the incident by naming Ventura. The section recounts an October 2006 confrontation that Chris Kyle said he had at a bar in Coronado, California, with a man called “Scruff Face.” It was in promotional interviews where Kyle identified the man as Ventura, who was in Coronado for a SEAL reunion and graduation ceremony. Kyle was at the bar for a wake for a fallen SEAL.
Monday, the jury believed a verdict could not be reached. The judge encouraged them to go back and continue to deliberate. Tuesday’s resolution came only after attorneys for both sides agreed to allow a verdict if eight of 10 jurors agreed. The jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment.
At least some of that money will be covered by “American Sniper” publisher HarperCollins’ insurance policy. John Borger, an attorney for Kyle’s estate, said the family would consider an appeal. He also told the Associated Press said the $1.3 million for unjust enrichment will have to come from the book profits.
Chris Kyle was killed last year at a Texas gun range, when another service member suffering from PTSD turned his weapon on Kyle. After the death, Ventura moved forward with the defamation suit against Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, as the defendant. She wasn’t in court to hear the verdict.
Ventura was also not present but his attorney, David Bradley Olson, said Ventura felt there were “no real winners in this trial.”
Olsen told the AP, “He’s certainly grateful for the verdict, but his reputation with an entire generation of young SEALs may never be repaired,” Olsen said, adding, “It is a victory in the sense that the jury did tell the world that Chris Kyle’s story is a lie and was a fabrication.”
Ventura’s attorney made the case to jurors that the claims that Ventura believed the SEALS deserved to “lost a few” in Iraq had made him a pariah in the community that mattered most to him — the brotherhood of current and former SEALs.
Borger argued that 11 witnesses presented by the defense told a “compelling and consistent story” that backed Kyle’s account.
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.
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