Jesse Ventura: Judge Throws Out Award In Defamation Suit Brought Against ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle Estate

Jesse Ventura is not entitled to nearly $1.8 million he was awarded in a defamation lawsuit the former Minnesota governor brought against the estate of American Sniper Chris Kyle, now that an appeals court has thrown out the awards, CBS News is reporting.

Back in 2014, Ventura was awarded $500,000 from Kyle’s estate for defamation, and another $1.3 million from Kyle’s estate for “unjust enrichment.” Ventura claimed that Kyle had lied about him and defamed his character in his book, American Sniper. Further, Ventura claimed that Kyle’s allegedly false claims “unjustly enriched” Kyle’s estate, claiming that his (Ventura’s) own celebrity status and being mentioned in the book caused it to be a best-seller.

Specifically, according to Fox News, a chapter in the book entitled “Punching Out Scruff Face” describes an alleged altercation between Kyle and Ventura at a California bar in 2006. Kyle claimed that a man he didn’t recognize at first, but whom he later identified as Ventura, made untoward remarks about Navy SEALS (Kyle was a Navy SEAL) at a wake for a fallen Navy SEAL. Kyle claimed that Ventura said the the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq.

Ventura, himself a Navy SEAL, claimed the he never made such remarks, nor would he ever have. He also claimed that the book caused him to lose his reputation in the tight-knit Navy SEAL community.

He sued.

“I would have been a big-time loser had I not pursued the lawsuit, because… the whole story was fabricated. I was accused of treason, which in the military is the death penalty.”

Following a federal trial, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the judge and the attorneys for Kyle’s estate agree to allow the jury to decide the case by a majority vote, rather than the required unanimous decision. By an 8-2 vote, the jury agreed to award money to Ventura for both defamation and unjust enrichment.

Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, appealed the verdict.

Her lawyers, focusing largely on technicalities (including whether or not the judge properly instructed the jury, and whether or not the strict legal definition of “unjust enrichment” was met), asked a three-judge panel to throw out the verdict. And this week, by a 2-1 vote, the panel agreed.

The decision vacates the $1.3 million “unjust enrichment” award, and the panel ordered a new trial for the defamation portion of the verdict.

Chris Kyle became a household name in 2013, when Clint Eastwood’s award-winning film, American Sniper, based on Kyle’s autobiography of the same name, was released. The film was immediately controversial, as questions were raised moral questions about whether or not Kyle’s actions during the Iraq War were, as portrayed in the book and film, a simple matter of an American hero doing his job, those of a cold-blooded murderer blinded by the fog of war, or somewhere in between.

In fact, according to the Washington Post, the movie created something of a miniature culture war at the time. Some observers — particularly those with a left-leaning bent, such as filmmaker Michael Moore — suggested that the movie over-simplified complicated moral questions. That in turn led to other observers — particularly those with a right-leaning bent — to rush to Kyle’s defense.

Last month, it emerged that Chris Kyle overstated the number of medals he won during his tours in Iraq. Kyle had claimed that he received two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars; naval records indicate that Kyle received one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with valor.

Do you think Jesse Ventura was defamed by Chris Kyle?

[Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images]