Jury begins hearing Jesse Ventura's defamation case

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Jury begins hearing Jesse Ventura's defamation case
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura returns from lunch to the federal courthouse in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, July 8, 2014, the first day of a trial in a lawsuit Ventura filed against the estate of the late former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Ventura filed the defamation lawsuit claiming that Kyle's account of a bar fight in a book he wrote was false. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Taya Kyle, the widow of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, arrives with her attorneys at the federal courthouse Tuesday, July 8, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn., for the start of a trial in a lawsuit filed by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura against the Kyle estate. Ventura filed the defamation lawsuit claiming that Chris Kyle's account of a bar fight in a book he wrote was false. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura makes his way back into Warren E. Burger Federal Building during the first day of jury selection in a defamation lawsuit, Tuesday, July 8, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn. Ventura filed the defamation lawsuit against the late Navy Seal Chris Kyle's estate, claiming that Kyle's account of a bar fight in a book he wrote was false. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Taya Kyle, the widow of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, arrives at the federal courthouse Tuesday, July 8, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn., for the start of a trial in a lawsuit filed by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura against the Kyle estate. Ventura filed the defamation lawsuit claiming that Chris Kyle's account of a bar fight in a book he wrote was false. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2013 file photo Christopher Kyle's wife, Taya, is escorted to her seat after memorializing her husband in Arlington, Texas. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura sued Chris Kyle, the author of the best-selling book “American Sniper,” for defamation in 2012 after Kyle claimed in his book that he punched Ventura at a California bar. Ventura says the incident never happened, and he’s suing for damages. Kyle, of Texas, was killed last year on a gun range while the lawsuit was pending. His widow, Taya Kyle, is now the central defendant in the case, which goes to trial on Tuesday, July 8, in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2011 file photo, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, left, talks to the media in Minneapolis. Ventura sued Chris Kyle, the author of the best-selling book “American Sniper,” for defamation in 2012 after Kyle claimed in his book that he punched Ventura at a California bar. Ventura says the incident never happened, and he’s suing for damages. Kyle, of Texas, was killed last year on a gun range while the lawsuit was pending. His widow, Taya Kyle, is now the central defendant in the case, which goes to trial on Tuesday, July 8, in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2012 file photo, former Minnesota Gov. Jessie Ventura speaks at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., in support of Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson prior to an address by Johnson. A judge on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, allowed Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the widow of slain "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle to go to trial. Ventura alleges Kyle, considered to be the deadliest sniper in American history, defamed him in his best-selling book. In it, Kyle claimed he punched someone named "Scruff Face," whom he later identified as Ventura, in a 2006 bar fight. Ventura says the fight never happened. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
FILE - In this May 15, 2008 file photo, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura signs his new book, "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me," during an appearance at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Ventura contends he isn't going after the widow of slain "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle by continuing his defamation lawsuit. Ventura told The Associated Press late Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, his fight is with the publisher's insurance company. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2002 file photo, then Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura speaks during a news conference in St. Paul, Minn. Ventura contends he isn't going after the widow of slain "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle by continuing his defamation lawsuit. Ventura told The Associated Press late Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, his fight is with the publisher's insurance company. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid,File)
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By STEVE KARNOWSKI

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Jesse Ventura brought his defamation lawsuit before home-state jurors Tuesday in a bid to punish the estate of late "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle, who bragged in an autobiography that he knocked the former Minnesota governor out during a barroom scrap almost a decade ago.

In opening statements in federal court, Ventura attorney David Olsen said the punch never happened and that Ventura never made disparaging comments about servicemen, as Kyle claimed.

"Jesse Ventura will testify there was no incident, there was no altercation, and that Kyle made the whole story up," Olsen said.

Kyle estate attorney John Borger countered that the jury would get the real story from Kyle via testimony videotaped before his death.

"You will hear Chris Kyle testify he was absolutely sure that what he wrote about Jesse Ventura's behavior was true," Borger said. Both sides said they would produce witnesses to back their version of events.

A four-woman, six-man jury was seated quickly to hear Ventura's case, which he pursued even after Kyle was killed last year at a Texas gun range, saying it was important to clear his name.

Ventura, a former Navy SEAL and wrestler who was Minnesota governor from 1999-2003, alleges Kyle defamed him in his best-selling book.

In it, Kyle - also a former SEAL and regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history - describes a 2006 bar fight in California in which he said he punched a man, later identified as Ventura, knocking him to the ground. Kyle claimed that 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.

Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, is now the defendant in Ventura's case. Ventura and Taya Kyle are both expected to testify.

Ventura, who often had a contentious relationship with the Minnesota media, declined to speak to reporters as court broke for lunch. He watched Tuesday's proceedings with a serious look on his face most of the time, only occasionally cracking a smile while speaking with his attorneys.

Legal experts have said Ventura has to prove that Kyle made up the story and profited from it, and that Ventura's reputation was hurt as a result.

Ventura said earlier this year that his lawsuit is "about clearing my name," but significant money is at stake. Kyle's book has made more than $3 million in royalties and the judge in the case has ruled that profits from an upcoming movie could be subject to damages, too.

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