'American Sniper' Author Never Intended for Ventura's Name to Get Out

Updated: 07/28/2014 4:50 PM
Created: 07/10/2014 1:54 PM
By: Megan Matthews

A former Navy SEAL, who served with former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, is taking the stand on day three of the defamation trial.

Ventura is suing slain military sniper, Chris Kyle. Kyle, the author of “American Sniper,” included a story about punching out Ventura in a California bar in 2006. Ventura claims Kyle made that story up and sued Kyle over the claim.

Former Navy SEAL Bill DeWitt testified Thursday he did not see Ventura get into an argument or fight with Kyle in 2006.

Day three started with jurors listening to more of Kyle’s deposition, which was recorded in November 2012, three months before he was murdered at a Texas gun range.

In the best-selling book, Kyle identified Ventura only as “Scruff Face” but later named him as Ventura. In his deposition, Kyle said, “I never intended for his name to get out there.” He also said he didn’t want to cause controversy, but his publicists wanted him to keep telling the story.

Throughout the deposition, Kyle never backed down from his claim that he punched the former Minnesota governor. “As long as I’m telling the truth I have nothing to fear,” Kyle said. At the end of the deposition, Kyle said he was never disciplined for punching Ventura, even though he was on active duty. Ventura’s attorney argues that’s because the punch never happened.

Kyle also claimed he gave Ventura a black eye in the book and during interviews promoting the book. Ventura’s attorney introduced dozens of pictures of Ventura and fellow former SEALS at a graduation the day after the incident, which show Ventura with no black eye.

During the first two days of the trial, Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle was on the stand testifying 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. Ventura's attorney, David Bradley 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."

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.

The Associate Press contributed to this story.

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