A defense witness testified Monday afternoon that she saw former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura getting punched during a scuffle he had with another man at a California bar in October 2006, the Star Tribune reports. Her testimony contradicts Ventura's claims that the fight never happened.
The fight is at the center of Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the late author of “American Sniper: An Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History."
Ventura is suing the estate of military sniper Chris Kyle, who was shot and killed at a Texas gun range last year, claiming Kyle defamed him by saying he punched Ventura during the bar fight in 2006.
In the book, Kyle wrote that he punched a celebrity he identified as "Scruff Face" after he made unpatriotic remarks about Navy SEALs. Ventura's name doesn't appear in the book, but in later media interviews, Kyle said "Scruff Face" was Ventura.
Ventura says the fight never happened and says Kyle's book damaged his reputation in the Navy SEAL community. He testified that he no longer feels welcome at Navy SEAL events, and it's left “a hole in my heart," WCCO and the Associated Press report.
The defense witness, Laura deSchazo, said she was at the bar to attend a wake for a Navy SEAL who had died. DeSchazo testified that she saw Ventura get into a scuffle with another man.
“I saw Mr. Ventura get hit,” deSchazo said. “I believe it was a punch."
DeSchazo is the first witness called by defense attorneys, who began presenting their case Monday afternoon.
Kyle's attorney Chuck Webber cross-examined Ventura Monday morning, using excerpts from books Ventura wrote, to highlight holes in Ventura's claims, KARE 11 reports.
Weber also questioned whether Ventura was actually a Navy SEAL, and Ventura refused to answer questions about whether he saw combat or was fired on when he was a Navy SEAL, WCCO notes.
Ventura has also said he's had trouble finding work since Kyle's book was published. During questioning by Ventura's attorney, David Olson, Ventura said in the decade before Kyle's book came out he made close to $11 million, but says the damage to his reputation reduced his income by 90 percent, saying he made around $100,000 in each of the last two years, according to reports.
Ventura insists the lawsuit isn’t about money, but about clearing his name. Court documents show the book has earned royalties of more than $3 million and a judge has already ruled that proceeds from an upcoming movie could be subject to damages also, FOX 9 reports.
Ventura's wife, Terry, took the stand briefly Monday afternoon, testifying that she did not see any bruises on her husband's body when he came home from the bar on the day in question, according to the Star Tribune. She also said he never mentioned having any problems at the bar.