What Jesse Ventura must prove to win defamation lawsuit - KMSP-TV

What Jesse Ventura must prove to win defamation lawsuit

Posted: Updated:
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Jury selection begins Tuesday in former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura’s defamation lawsuit against Chris Kyle – a former Navy SEAL and author of the book "American Sniper: An Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History."

The book details an incident in 2006 where Kyle punches a man called “Scruff Face.” Ventura’s name is never used in the book, but Kyle later identified him in radio and TV interviews. Ventura said the fight never happened. He’s seeking damages, but said his primary reason for the lawsuit is to clear his name.

First Amendment attorney Steven Aggergaard expects the 10-person jury will end up making a landmark decision come verdict time.

"Mr. Ventura can't call him as a witness before the jury,” Aggergaard said. “This case for Minnesota defamation law is extremely important. We haven't seen a case like this in Minnesota, maybe ever.”

Court documents show “American Sniper” has earned royalties of more than $3 million, and the judge has already ruled that proceeds from an upcoming movie could be subject to damages too.

Kyle died in February 2013 in an incident at a Texas gun range. His wife, Taya, will stand as the defendant as she oversees his estate, which could make Ventura’s defamation claim even harder to prove than it already is.

“What's unusual about this case is we're talking about a public figure and different rules apply to public figures," Aggergaard said. "Public figures need to prove defamation, they need to prove falsity with reckless disregard for the truth, or that the person who wrote about Mr. Ventura just plain made it up."

Most importantly, Ventura’s attorney has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that actual malice was at play in those two pages.

“I would expect that they attorneys on the other side are going to be hammering home that this is Mr. Ventura's case to prove,” Aggergaard said.

Fox 9 reached out to Ventura’s attorney but he declined to comment. Instead, he simply stated he’d love to talk to us once trial is over. The trial in St. Paul, Minn. is expected to last two weeks.

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