ST. PAUL, Minn. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle said before he died that he had no fear of a defamation lawsuit by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Part of Kyle’s five-hour videotaped deposition was played Wednesday in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ventura claims Kyle invented a story in his best-seller about punching out a man he later identified as Ventura in a California bar in 2006.
Ventura accuses Kyle of lying about the incident in which Kyle supposedly punched out Ventura after he made disparaging remarks about servicemen. A key claim Ventura must prove for his lawsuit to succeed is that Kyle profited from a made-up story.
Under questioning from Ventura’s attorney, Kyle said he’s not concerned by the lawsuit because – in his words – “You can’t defeat the truth.”
Kyle was also asked if he was familiar with Ventura before the alleged bar fight. Kyle said he’d never met his fellow Navy SEAL but had the impression he was “a pretty cool dude.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Kyle’s widow, Taya, testified that the couple never intended to profit from the book. In often tearful testimony, she said the couple wanted to donate money to other veterans but were limited by gift tax laws that prevented them from donating more than $13,000 each to two families last year. 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 do it instead. She called him “one of the most humble people I ever knew” and said he wanted not to glorify himself but “to throw his flaws on the table.”
Ventura, a former Navy SEAL and wrestler who was Minnesota governor from 1999-2003, pursued his claim even after Kyle was slain last year at a Texas gun range, saying it was important to clear his name.
In a three-page subchapter of his book, Kyle – also a former SEAL and regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history – describes a bar fight in Coronado, California, in which he said he punched a man, knocking him to the ground. Kyle identified the man in the autobiography only as “Scruff Face” but later identified him as Ventura. Kyle claimed Ventura was speaking loudly against President George W. Bush, the Iraq War and Navy SEAL tactics. Kyle claimed Ventura said the SEALS “deserve to lose a few.”
Ventura, who has hosted several cable TV shows since his single term as Minnesota’s governor ended in 2002, has said his job offers dried up after the book was published and he was worried about being seen as a traitor to the military.
Legal experts have said Ventura has to prove that Kyle made up the story and profited from it, or at least acted with reckless disregard for the truth, and that Ventura’s reputation was hurt as a result.
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, to be directed by Clint Eastwood. Kyle said she had been told by a screenwriter that there wasn’t enough room for it.
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