Jury backs Ventura, awards $1.8 million in defamation suit over SEAL fight

Jesse Ventura
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, right, made his way back into Warren E. Burger Federal Building July 8, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn.
Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP

Updated 2:30 p.m.

After days of deadlock, a jury has sided with former Gov. Jesse Ventura, finding that he was defamed in a book. Jurors awarded Ventura $1.8 million.

Ventura had sued the estate of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, claiming Kyle defamed him by making up a story about a 2006 bar fight that appears in Kyle's book, "American Sniper."

The decision came just a day after the jury sent a note to court saying it could not reach a verdict. U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle (no relation to Chris Kyle) told jurors to "take one more shot" at coming to a consensus, so the jury this morning met for its sixth day of deliberations.

Though jurors were not unanimous, Tuesday's 8-2 jury vote was accepted by plaintiff and defense.

Despite the $1.8 million award, there are no real winners in this case, Ventura said this afternoon through his lawyer.

In his book, Chris Kyle told the story of a California bar fight in which he said he punched "Scruff Face," a man he later identified as Ventura.

The fight, Kyle wrote, came after he alleged Ventura made disparaging remarks about SEALs.

Ventura countered that the fight never happened and that the claims in the book had made him an outcast in the SEAL community.

Kyle was killed last year on a Texas gun range and his widow became the defendant in the case.

Given Ventura's status as an ex-governor, professional wrestler and celebrity, some experts believed he would have a hard time proving defamation. The law sets a higher bar for public figures to prove defamation -- not just that the information was wrong but that the truth was disregarded.

The jury, though, awarded $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million to compensate for the author's "unjust enrichment" at Ventura's expense.

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