Ventura, sniper's widow bring defamation case to St. Paul jury this week


The onus will be on Jesse Ventura and his attorney to prove that the former Minnesota governor was defamed in a best-selling book when a trial begins in U.S. District Court in St. Paul this week.

University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Anfinson tells the Star Tribune Ventura's defamation suit is "one of the most important First Amendment cases in recent Minnesota history."

Anfinson says the standard for defamation is high. He tells the Star Tribune Ventura will have to prove not only that the story about him contained in the book "American Sniper" is false, but also that the author was aware of that and published the story with malice.

Raleigh Levine, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, tells the Associated Press it's harder to prove malice than falsity. "It has to do with what you know about the truth -- that you actually knew that what you were saying was false or that you recklessly disregarded the truth," Levine tells the AP.

"American Sniper" was written by Chris Kyle and recounts episodes that built his reputation as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history. The book also tells of a 2006 bar fight in which Kyle punched a man he called "Scruff Face," whom he later confirmed was Ventura.

In relating the anecdote, Kyle writes that Scruff Face was criticizing President George W. Bush, the Iraq War, and Navy SEAL tactics before Kyle dropped him to the floor with a punch.

Ventura argues the incident is a fabrication.

The former governor and Navy SEAL testified in a deposition last year the incident described in "American Sniper" has damaged his reputation and made it harder for him to find work. He told the Associated Press in February the lawsuit is not about money, but about clearing his name.

Kyle (right) and a friend were killed in a shooting at a Texas gun range last year. A judge subsequently ruled the defamation case could proceed with Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, serving as the defendant. Taya Kyle is the executor of her late husband's estate, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The AP says the trial is likely to last more than two weeks and will include testimony from both Taya Kyle and Jesse Ventura. The Star Tribune says court documents indicate the former governor's wife, Terry Ventura, and adult son, Tyrell, will also provide testimony to the ten-member jury.
Chris Kyle discussed his book during a 2012 interview with television host Conan O'Brien.

Next Up