Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura feels he's been vindicated by a jury's verdict awarding him $1.8 million in his defamation suit against the estate of murdered Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.
In his best-selling book "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," Kyle had claimed that he had knocked down the former professional wrestler with just one punch in 2006 during an argument in a bar.
After the verdict in a Minnesota federal court following six days of deliberations, Ventura told the Star Tribune
, "I am overjoyed that my reputation was restored, which is what this whole lawsuit is all about.
"But the emotion is about what's been taken from me. I can't go to UDT [Underwater Demolition Team]-SEAL reunions anymore because that was the place I always felt safe, and who will be next to throw me under the bus? I'd have to spend my time looking over my shoulder."
Kyle, who was shot dead at 38 by an Iraq war veteran
at a Texas shooting range last year, alleged in his memoirs that he had laid out Ventura after the ex-governor had "started running his mouth" criticizing the Iraq war.
Although he only referred to the celebrity he decked as "Mr. Scrub Face" in the book, Kyle later admitted during interviews that it was Ventura. But the former governor scoffed at the accusations made by the acclaimed soldier who has 160 confirmed kills to his name.
"I am 6 feet 4, I weighed 255 pounds and I've wrestled Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, and this guy is going to knock me down with one punch and leave no mark on me whatsoever?" he said.
Ventura, who spends five months a year with his wife Terry in Baja California, Mexico, said if he'd had lost he would have "permanently moved to Mexico because I would have nothing here to live for. If you can't win in court with the truth, there's nothing left."
Asked what he planned to do with the money, Ventura said he had massive legal bills, adding, "If I had lost, it would have been devastating financially for me."
Ventura's victory has shocked legal experts, who were stunned that that lawyers for Kyle's estate were willing to accept a less-than-unanimous verdict, considering a celebrity was involved, while facing the probability of a deadlock leading to a costly new trial for Ventura.
"I think it's a strategic error,' David Schultz, a professor of law and political science at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., told MinnPost.com ‘I'm surprised that the defense agreed to it."
And, referring to Ventura's election as governor, Joseph Daly, a professor emeritus at the same law school, told the Star Tribune. "He shocked the world in 1998, and he's shocked the world in 2014. Jesse, basically is a winner."
The Washington Post
noted that since the verdict Ventura has come under fire for making Kyle's widow Taya pay damages to him.
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