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'American Sniper' widow files appeal in Ventura defamation decision

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The widow of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle has filed an appeal over a federal jury's decision to award former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in a defamation suit.

The appeal came days before the Clint Eastwood-directed film "American Sniper" opens in theaters.

Taya Kyle asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday to overturn the July decision in which jurors voted 8-2 that the book defamed Ventura, MPR News reports.

The notice of appeal didn't specify the arguments Kyle's estate will make, the Star Tribune reports. The appeal process could take months.

The lawsuit and trial

At issue in the case was former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s 2012 bestseller “American Sniper,” in which Kyle described a scene in a bar where he said he punched out another man he called “Scruff Face” in the book. Kyle later identified Scruff Face as Ventura. Kyle was shot and killed last year on a Texas gun range.

Ventura, a former pro wrestler and Navy veteran himself, who has gone on to become a TV personality, hotly denies that the fight ever happened. He sued Kyle’s estate, claiming the book anecdote harmed his reputation and caused him lost income.

After a nine-day trial in federal court in July, the jury agreed with Ventura and awarded him $1.8 million for defamation and "unjust enrichment."

Last month a judge rejected a request from Tara Kyle to overturn the verdict.

Earlier this month, Ventura sued HarperCollins, claiming the publisher of the book took advantage of the publicity generated by Chris Kyle's story about Ventura.

'American Sniper' on the big screen

"American Sniper" the movie, which stars Bradley Cooper, is being released in theaters Christmas Day.

There is no indication the incident involving Ventura is in the film.

In the Wall Street Journal's review of the movie, Joe Morgenstern writes Eastwood and his colleagues "have made a fine, lean film that celebrates patriotism and courage, but with a sharpshooter's eye for tragedy, the follies of history and the toll that war takes on the warriors."

The film largely takes place in Iraq, the New York Times notes, where Chris Kyle served four tours of duty and tallied 160 confirmed kills – making him the deadliest sniper in American history. In the newspaper's review, A.O. Scott says in Cooper's portrayal of Kyle he "keeps a lid on his natural, mischievous charm without entirely suppressing it."

Rolling Stone said of the film, "Eastwood lobs one into the war zone where conscience does battle with killer instinct. This is 'Hurt Locker' territory. But Eastwood, working from a script that Jason Hall adapted from Kyle's 2012 memoir, fuses the explosive and the sorrowful as only he can. That's why his film takes a piece out of you."

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