Jesse Ventura Awarded $1.85M for Defamation
(CN) - A Minneapolis jury awarded $1.85 million in damages to Jesse Ventura in his defamation case against late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs' role in the Iraq war.
The jury, which began its deliberations last week, could not reach a unanimous verdict, and voted 8-to-2 in Ventura's favor.
In charging the jury, U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle said federal rules require a unanimous verdict in the case, but indicated he would allow for a split verdict if both sides agreed to it.
The award includes $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for "unjust enrichment".
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ventura was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Ventura sued Kyle, who was described as having the most confirmed kills by a sniper in U.S. military history, after the SEAL wrote in his 2012 book, "American Sniper," that he punched out a celebrity while mourning the death of a fellow member of the exclusive military unit.
Kyle did not identify Ventura by name in the book, but allegedly did so during interviews on a promotional tour.
Ventura said the entire episode was fabricated and that his reputation had been permanently damaged, especially among Navy SEALs.
Ventura had served as a member of a Navy underwater demolition crew that later combined with the SEALs.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict, Ventura's attorney David B. Olsen said, "We don't know what others may think, but certainly with this generation of young SEALs, we don't know that his reputation can ever be repaired."
"There are no winners in this trial," he added.
Attorney John Borger, a member of Kyle's defense team, described the verdict as a disappointment. He said he and the other members of the team would now evaluate their legal options in the case.
Kyle and a companion were shot and killed in February 2013 by a fellow veteran they'd accompanied to the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort shooting range in Erath County, Texas. Media reports at the time said the men were trying to help their alleged assailant, former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, deal with post traumatic stress disorder.
Routh was charged with two counts of capital murder and continues to await his trial.