The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it won’t hear arguments brought on behalf of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura against the estate of slain Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle, leaving a lower court’s dismissal of a $1.8 million defamation verdict.
Mr. Ventura, a pro wrestler-turned-politician, sued his fellow former SEAL in 2012 after a section in Kyle’s best-selling book contained an excerpt concerning an altercation said to have happened six years earlier inside a California bar.
In the book, Kyle claimed to have assaulted an individual during a veterans’ meet-up because the person said the SEALs “deserved to lose a few” in Iraq. Though unnamed, Kyle indicated in interviews afterwards that the person he punched was none other than the former governor of Minnesota.
Mr. Ventura, 65, said the incident never occurred and alleged that his reputation within the SEAL community was damaged as a direct result of Kyle’s accusation. In 2014, a jury trial concluded with Mr. Ventura being awarded $500,000 for defamation and $1.35 million for unjust enrichment.
Last June, however, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals outright reversed the unjust enrichment verdict and vacated and remanded the defamation judgment after agreeing that Mr. Ventura’s legal team damaged the defendant’s chance of a fair trial by telling jurors an insurance policy would cover the cost of damages awarded in court.
The appeals panel’s ruling will now remain intact as a result of the high court’s decision this week, meaning Mr. Ventura may pursue the defamation allegations in District Court again.
“The appeal wasn’t overturned because Chris Kyle didn’t lie,” Mr. Ventura said in a statement published by the New York Post. “He did lie — and that was proven in court. The appeal was overturned on a technicality. And the judges went against their rules [and] laws to do it. Politics.”
“[The] truth will come out again in the new trial,” Mr. Ventura added.
Kyle’s book, “American Sniper” sold more than 1.2 million copies since being released in 2012. He was shot and killed by a fellow vet two years at the age of 38.