Jesse Ventura is headed to court over allegations that the late author of the book American Sniper made up a story about the former Minnesota governor getting in a barroom brawl.
The suit claims that Ventura was defamed by the late Chris Kyle, who wrote a memoir about his time as a Navy SEAL. In the book, Kyle described a barroom fight but did not name the combatant. In later interviews, however, Kyle claimed that it was Jesse Ventura who made derogatory remarks and sparked a fight.
Jury selection for the defamation trial began early this week, with 10 jurors selected and lawyers for both sides presenting opening statements.
Ventura’s lawyer, David B. Olsen, claimed that the fight never happened. He intends to call witnesses who can attest to the fact that Ventura showed up to a graduation the next day with no cuts or bruises.
But John Borger, an attorney for Chris Kyle’s widow Tara, says many other witnesses can attest to the fight.
In the chapter “Punching out Scruff Face,” Kyle describes getting into a fight with a man who criticized George W. Bush and and war in Iraq, saying that Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.”
Attorneys representing Kyle’s estate had tried to have the Jesse Ventura lawsuit thrown out, but a judge denied the motion in March.
“The evidence in the case does not come down to just eyewitness statements on both sides,” U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle wrote in his ruling. “Ventura has also submitted corroborating photographs of himself at the graduation ceremony the following day in which no injuries are visible, despite Kyle’s allegation that he punched Ventura (not a small man himself) in the face with such force that he knocked him to the ground. Altogether, Ventura has proffered sufficient evidence upon which a jury could conclude that Kyle’s statements were materially false.”
Jesse Ventura claims the episode in the book is absolutely false.