Former Navy SEAL Says Kyle Punched Ventura

Updated: 07/28/2014 4:49 PM
Created: 07/16/2014 7:51 PM
By: Tom Hauser

One of several current or former Navy SEALs testified Wednesday that he not only saw Jesse Ventura get punched by Chris Kyle, he also heard Ventura make a disparaging remark just before the punch. 

It's the latest testimony during the defamation trial pitting former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura against the estate of the late Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and author of "American Sniper."

Jeremiah Dinnell is also a former SEAL sniper who served with Kyle and was credited with 47 confirmed "kills" in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says in 2006 he witnessed Kyle punch Ventura on a sidewalk outside a San Diego bar called McP's, a well-known Navy SEAL hangout. He says he also heard Ventura say to Kyle the SEALS "deserve to lose a few" in Iraq just before the punch. 

"It's something that sticks with you," he testified under oath on Wednesday.

However, under cross-examination, an attorney for Ventura played portions of a recorded deposition with Dinnell from 2012 during which he made no mention of Ventura saying that disparaging remark about Navy SEALS.  Dinnell testified that he now remembers what Ventura said.

Dinnell's testimony is in some conflict with testimony from four other Navy SEALS, including Guy Budinscak. He was also at McP's the night of the alleged altercation between Ventura and Kyle. He says he saw Ventura getting up from the ground, but didn't see a punch. "Jesse looked disoriented and frazzled, not unlike someone who's been in a fight," Budinscak testified.

Budinscak also testified he heard Ventura talking about political views and the Iraq war that made him sound like "he's on a different planet." However, he testified he didn't hear Ventura say Navy SEALs deserve to die.

In all, five Navy SEALs who were at McP's that night have testified for the defense. One of them says he saw the punch, while the other four only claim to have seen Ventura getting up from the ground. In conflicting accounts, three of them testified the incident happened on the patio at the bar, while two say it happened on a sidewalk.

Ventura initially filed a defamation suit against Chris Kyle after publication of his book, "American Sniper" in 2012. The Ventura story is in the book, but Ventura isn't mentioned by name. In later national television interviews he identified Ventura as the former "celebrity" Navy SEAL he punched. 

Kyle was murdered at a Texas gun range in 2013. The suit continues against his estate represented by his wife, Taya Kyle.

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