Judge denies widow's appeal, upholds $1.8M award to Jesse Ventura in defamation suit

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A judge upheld a $1.8 million award for Jesse Ventura in a defamation suit he brought against the author of a book who claimed he punched Ventura in the face after the former Minnesota governor made offensive comments about Navy SEALS, the Associated Press reports.

Ventura denied the incident ever happened and sued, claiming the story damaged his reputation. The jury, in a federal court trial in July, agreed with Ventura and awarded him the $1.8 million for defamation as well as "unjust enrichment."

On Wednesday, the judge rejected the appeal of Taya Kyle, the widow of "American Sniper" author and former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. She had asked the judge to throw out the jury's verdict and damages, claiming that the evidence presented at trial did not support it.

But the judge who presided over the trial ruled Wednesday that "substantial evidence" supported the verdict, according to the Associated Press.

At issue in the case was a section in Kyle’s book, a 2012 bestseller, which described a scene in a California bar where Kyle wrote he punched out another man he identified only as “Scruff Face” in the book. Kyle later said in an interview that Scruff Face was Ventura.

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 claimed the book anecdote harmed his reputation and caused him lost income.

Kyle was shot and killed last year on a Texas gun range, but the lawsuit was allowed to continue against his estate.

Kyle’s widow cried on the stand at one point during the nine days of testimony in trial, asserting that her husband was not a liar. Kyle’s lawyers had argued that many of Ventura’s controversial statements over the years did far more to harm his reputation than a story described in a few pages in a book.

Witnesses on the stand who were in the California bar that night in 2006 gave conflicting accounts of what happened.

Ventura testified that he didn’t even know if Kyle was in the bar that night.

Shortly after the verdict came in, publisher HarperCollins said it would remove the section in question from the book.

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