ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Jurors in Jesse Ventura's defamation case on Wednesday watched video testimony from a slain military sniper, who said he didn't fear being sued for claiming in his autobiography that he had punched the former Minnesota governor inside a bar.
Ventura claims "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who was fatally shot last year at a Texas gun range, invented a story in his best-selling book about punching out Ventura in a California bar in 2006. He had said Ventura made disparaging comments about SEALs while Kyle was attending a wake for a fellow SEAL who had fallen in battle.
Ventura says the incident never happened.
Under questioning from Ventura's attorney, David Bradley Olson, Kyle testified in November 2012 that he wasn't concerned about the lawsuit. Asked why, he replied: "You can't defeat the truth."
Kyle, who's regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, also was asked if he was familiar with Ventura before the alleged fight at the bar near Kyle's base at the time in Coronado, California. Kyle responded that he'd never met Ventura before that night but that he was familiar with Ventura's own military service as a SEAL and his subsequent career as a pro wrestler, actor and politician.
"Back then we thought that he was a pretty cool dude," Kyle said.
Jurors saw about the first 30 minutes of the deposition before breaking for lunch. They were expected to see most of the rest in the afternoon.
Earlier Wednesday, Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, testified that the couple never intended to profit from the book. A key claim Ventura must prove for his lawsuit to succeed is that the Kyles profited from a made-up story.
In often tearful testimony, she said they wanted to donate money to other veterans but found themselves limited by gift tax laws that prevented them from donating more than $13,000 each to two families last year. Olson challenged that assertion, suggesting by his questions that they could have chosen to give more away and just pay the taxes on it. The book has earned more than $3 million in royalties.
Taya Kyle said her husband didn't even want to write the book but did so because he didn't want others to glorify him. He earned two Silver Star medals plus five Bronze Stars with valor for his service in Iraq. But she called him "one of the most humble people I ever knew" and that he wanted to honor the men he served with and "to throw his flaws on the table."
In a three-page subchapter of his book, Kyle identified the man from the bar incident only as "Scruff Face" but later named him as Ventura. Kyle claimed Ventura was speaking loudly against President George W. Bush, the Iraq War and SEAL tactics. Kyle also claimed Ventura said the SEALs "deserve to lose a few."
Ventura, who was Minnesota governor from 1999-2003, pursued his lawsuit even after Kyle was killed in February 2013, saying it was important to clear his name. Ventura, who has hosted several cable TV shows since his single term as Minnesota's governor ended, has said his job offers dried up after the book was published because of the harm to his reputation.
Legal experts have said Ventura has to prove that Kyle made up the story, or at least acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The judge in the case ruled earlier that any profits from an upcoming movie based on Kyle's book could be subject to damages.
Taya Kyle testified Wednesday that the alleged incident won't be part of the movie, which is being directed by Clint Eastwood. Kyle said she had been told by a screenwriter that there wasn't enough room for it.