Jesse Ventura claims that his career ground to a halt after a book by a former Navy SEAL accused the former Minnesota governor of badmouthing SEALs and then getting knocked out in a barroom brawl.
Ventura has filed a defamation lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle, the late Navy SEAL who wrote American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. In the book, Kyle describes getting into a fight with a man who criticized George W. Bush and claimed that Navy SEALS “deserve to lose a few.”
Kyle never identified the man by name in the book, but in subsequent interviews, he confirmed that it was Jesse Ventura.
Kyle was killed last year, gunned down at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq War veteran. Before his death, Kyle videotaped a deposition, which was played for jurors last week. In the interview, Kyle said Jesse Ventura was loud and belligerent.
On Monday, Jesse Ventura told the court that his income dropped sharply after the book was published. After earning an average of $1 million a year before the book, Ventura said he now finds himself struggling to find work.
“It came to a screeching halt is the best way I can put it,” Ventura said of his entertainment career.
But others have backed Kyle’s account of the events. On Monday, a woman testified that she saw someone punch Ventura in 2006 at a California bar.
Laura deShazo of Salt Lake City said she was at the bar after a wake for a friend of Kyle’s. deShazo said she and some family members posed for pictures with Jesse Ventura, then later saw him get into a fight with someone. She did not know the other person in the fight, but gave a description that matched Chris Kyle.
Ventura had at least enough evidence to bring the lawsuit to trial. In March, attorneys for the Kyle family tried to have the case thrown out, but a judge denied the motion.
“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.”
For Jesse Ventura, the trial is deeper than lost income. Last week Ventura’s attorneys called his wife Terry Ventura to the stand to recount how important the Navy SEALS had been in her husband’s life.