One saw him take a punch. Another said he saw him on the sidewalk outside a bar. Another saw him leave with blood on his lips.
Witness by witness, defense attorneys on Tuesday continued to assemble a scenario that they hope will disprove Jesse Ventura’s claim that Chris Kyle fabricated a story about punching out the former Minnesota governor at a bar in 2006.
Ventura is suing Kyle’s estate and widow, Taya, claiming that the late author’s account of a confrontation in the 2012 memoir “American Sniper” damaged Ventura’s reputation.
Tuesday’s witnesses at Ventura’s defamation trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul stitched together the scene at McP’s Irish Pub in Coronado, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2006, where a group of Navy SEALs were attending a wake for Michael Monsoor at the same time Ventura was attending a gathering of Navy underwater demolition team members.
Rosemary deShazo, a friend of Chris Kyle’s who attended the wake, testified that she heard Ventura make a disparaging remark about U.S. Navy SEALs similar to the one Kyle described in “American Sniper.”
“He said, ‘They probably deserved it, they die all the time,’ ” she testified.
Under cross-examination DeShazo conceded that she was paraphrasing Ventura. But when asked by Kyle attorney Leita Walker how confident she was about the quote, she responded, “quite confident, very confident.”
DeShazo is a sister of Laura deShazo, who testified Monday that she saw Ventura punched in the bar.
Rosemary deShazo said she did not see a punch, but recalled Ventura’s remarks because of the context. “Unusual things that are emotional stick in your memory. I remember he offended me, offended people I was with.”
Also present was Debbie Lee, who started an organization called America’s Mighty Warriors after her son Marc Lee, 28, in 2006 became the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq.
Lee, who said she was a close friend of Chris Kyle, testified that Ventura expressed no sympathy to her about Monsoor’s death or the death of her son weeks earlier. She said he only wanted to talk about himself.
‘Lost all respect’
“I lost all respect for the man,” she testified.
Lee said she heard Ventura say that Americans don’t belong in Iraq and that President George W. Bush got involved in an unjust war. She said she did not see any physical altercation, but saw Kyle approach Ventura to discourage him from making offensive remarks.
She also said Kyle told her at breakfast the next morning that he had punched Ventura.
Lee also said the Kyles had personally given her $26,000. Taya Kyle testified last week that the money is part of an effort to disperse income from her late husband’s book to veterans’ causes.
John Kelly III, dressed in full U.S. Navy SEAL uniform, testified next and said that he saw Ventura lying on his back on a sidewalk outside McP’s moments after Ventura faced off with Kyle.
Kelly, a special operator 1st class SEAL, said that he had seen Kyle facing Ventura moments earlier, but did not see Kyle punch Ventura.