ST. PAUL Minn. (Reuters) – Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was expected to return to the witness stand on Monday at his defamation trial accusing a former Navy SEAL sniper of making up an encounter at a bar in 2006 described in a best-selling book.
Ventura testified on Friday he has not been in a fight since he left the Navy, decades before an encounter former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle described in “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.”
At the heart of Ventura’s federal defamation lawsuit is whether he and Kyle tussled outside the bar.
In the book, Kyle described punching a celebrity he identified as “Scruff Face,” who he said made disparaging remarks about SEALs. He identified “Scruff Face” as Ventura during interviews supporting the book’s release.
Kyle, who was killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran, said in a videotaped deposition played for jurors last week he punched Ventura that night, describing the former governor as loud and belligerent.
On Friday, Ventura testified he had no recollection of Kyle. Ventura also said he quit drinking in 2002 due to blood thinning medication that makes him bleed and bruise easily.
Ventura, a former member of the Naval Special Forces Underwater Demolition/SEAL teams, sued Kyle in 2012, contending the incident never happened and the account hurt Ventura financially.
After Chris Kyle’s death, Ventura named his wife, Taya Kyle, as defendant in the lawsuit as the overseer of his estate. “American Sniper” has generated more than $2.5 million in royalties split between Kyle, his agent and co-authors.
Ventura, a former professional wrestler and actor who was Minnesota’s governor from 1999 to 2003, has not specified a damages amount in his lawsuit.
The jury is being asked to determine if Kyle’s statements were false and, because Ventura is a public figure, whether Kyle made them with actual malice.
The trial began Tuesday and is expected to take about three weeks.
(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Doina Chiacu)