After the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear his appeal, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said he was looking forward to a new trial in his defamation case against the estate of slain Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle.
The justices, without comment, left intact a decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which threw out the $1.8 million verdict awarded to Ventura after a 2014 trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.
Ventura has maintained that the best selling book, “American Sniper,” contained a fabricated account of a barroom fight in California in which Kyle said he punched Ventura and knocked him down after the ex-governor made disparaging remarks about Navy SEALs, President George Bush and U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.
Jennifer Hobbs, Ventura’s spokeswoman, said Monday, that Ventura was driving to Mexico on Monday to his winter retreat and got a statement from him, which she passed along to the Star Tribune.
“The appeal wasn’t overturned because Chris Kyle didn’t lie,” Ventura said. “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. But the truth will come out again in the new trial.”
The jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment.
Attorneys representing HarperCollins, the publisher of “American Sniper,” appealed to the 8th Circuit. It concluded that there was no legal precedent for awarding $1.3 million under Minnesota’s unjust enrichment law, saying that it should not apply to a defamation case.
And it found that the $500,000 award for defamation should be invalidated because Ventura’s attorney, David Olsen, questioned two HarperCollins witnesses during the trial about their knowledge of an insurance policy to cover defamation.
The appeals court sent the defamation portion of the case back to the district court in St. Paul, giving Ventura the option to seek a second trial. Ventura said in an earlier interview with the Star Tribune that he was prepared to take it to a second trial— and even more trials after that, if necessary.
The insurance issue was a technical one but considered critical according to the appeals court because it said that it could make a jury more willing to award money to Ventura if it was known that insurance would cover the award.
Olsen received permission from U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle to ask the questions after he said an earlier reference to insurance was put into evidence, although Chris Kyle’s attorneys disagreed. Olsen also referred to the insurance issue in his closing arguments.
Chris Kyle’s book skyrocketed to the top of the bestseller list, and Ventura argued that a principal reason was that he acknowledged that a fight he described in the book with a “celebrity” he dubbed “Scruff Face,” was in fact Ventura, who was governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2002.
Ventura argued that the story was fabricated, although he was at the bar that night in 2006. Ventura then sued Kyle, alleging he was libeled.
Kyle was killed in 2013 in an unrelated incident, and Ventura proceeded with the suit, continuing it against the estate, which is headed by Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.