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Jesse Ventura Wins $1.8M in Defamation Lawsuit

Updated: 07/29/2014 4:59 PM
Created: 07/29/2014 1:15 PM WDIO.com
By: Megan Matthews, KSTP-TV

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has won his defamation case against "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle.

The verdict was announced around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday. The federal jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment. That brings the total to $1.8 million.

On the sixth day of deliberations, the jury decided that the 2012 best-selling book defamed Ventura in its description of a bar fight in California in 2006. Kyle wrote that he decked a man whom he later identified as Ventura after the man allegedly said the Navy SEALs "deserve to lose a few."

Ventura testified that Kyle fabricated the passage about punching him. Kyle said in testimony videotaped before his death last year that his story was accurate.

Ventura's attorney David Olsen spoke to the media about an hour after the verdict was reached. He says he spoke to Ventura over the phone who said, "there are no winners in the trial," and that "he's grateful to the jury for the verdict."

Olsen went on to say, "it is a victory that the jury did tell the world that this was a lie. This was a fabrication."

Kyle estate attorney John Borger says the family will consider an appeal. During a news conference, he said Kyle's widow "was very surprised and obviously upset," when he called to tell her the news.

All 10 jurors left the courthouse together shortly after the verdict was read. They would not comment on camera, saying they were "advised not to talk."

It was not a unanimous decision. On Tuesday, attorneys for both sides agreed that the verdict did not need to be unanimous and would allow a verdict if only eight of 10 jurors agreed.

Borger faced questions about why he agreed to a non-unanimous verdict when the jury appeared deadlocked. Borger says it was a strategic call "that seemed appropriate at the time."

After finding in favor of Ventura, the jury was also tasked with awarding damages for any harm to his reputation, humiliation and embarrassment. Jurors had to find that Ventura suffered an economic loss as a direct result of Kyle's statements, or that Kyle used Ventura to profit unjustly.

Neither Ventura nor Chris Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, were in the courtroom for the verdict. Chris Kyle was slain at a Texas gun range last year, so his widow is executor of his estate with control over proceeds from book royalties and movie rights.

The verdict comes one day after jurors told federal Judge Richard Kyle they didn't think they could reach a unanimous decision. The judge urged them to keep trying.

(Copyright 2014 KSTP-TV, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
 

AP Photo/Jim Mone

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