U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle refused Wednesday to overturn the verdict of $1.8 million awarded to former Gov. Jesse Ventura in the defamation trial held in July.
Kyle's decision and refusal to order a new trial opens the door to a possible appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the estate of Chris Kyle, which lost the highly publicized case.
"I am disappointed in the verdict and decline further comment on the next steps," said John Borger, the estate's lead attorney.
Court Anderson, one of Ventura's attorneys, said only: "We're pleased with the decision."
In an 8-2 vote, the jury awarded a total of $1.845 million against the Kyle estate: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for "unjust enrichment."
The defamation trial revolved around an account Ventura disputes in the bestselling memoir "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle, the now-deceased Navy Seal.
Kyle claimed that in 2005, he punched Ventura in a California bar after Ventura made disparaging remarks about the Iraq War and former President George W. Bush and said that Navy SEALs "deserved to lose a few" in the war.
Ventura was at the bar attending a SEAL reunion at the same time as a wake was in progress for a SEAL killed in Iraq.
The former governor testified that he neither was punched nor made the remarks attributed to him in the book.
"This case largely boiled down to a credibility contest with several witnesses testifying that [Ventura's] version of events was true, while several other witnesses testified that Kyle's version of events was true," Judge Kyle said in a memorandum. He is not related to Chris Kyle, the author of the disputed memoir.
"Credibility determinations are inherently within the province of a jury and simply cannot be used to undermine the verdict," the judge wrote.
Judge Kyle also rejected other contentions by the Kyle estate, including the size of the award that included the $1.3 million for unjust enrichment. The jurors gave that award to Ventura because they concluded Kyle had made up the bar-fight story, which Ventura's attorneys said had increased sales of the book.
After the bar incident, but before the trial, Chris Kyle was killed in an unrelated incident, and the defendant became Kyle's estate, overseen by his widow, Taya Kyle, who lives near Dallas.
Ventura, a former professional wrestler, served as governor of Minnesota from 1998 to 2002.