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Jesse Ventura wins $1.8M in defamation lawsuit against ex-SEAL sniper

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jesse Ventura says he is happy to be vindicated
  • Former Minnesota governor sued the late Chris Kyle, alleging defamation
  • Ventura sued before Kyle was shot to death at a Texas gun range in 2013
  • Kyle had said his account of Ventura incident was accurate

(CNN) -- It was a lawsuit pitting two larger-than-life personalities against each other -- former pro wrestler-turned-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and ex-Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

On Tuesday, Ventura was victorious as a federal jury in Minnesota awarded him more than $1.8 million, deciding that Kyle's 2012 best-selling autobiography, "American Sniper" defamed Ventura.

"I don't feel great. I mean I feel good over the fact that I've been vindicated, that now they know the story was not true. It was fabricated from Day One," Ventura told CNN affiliate WCCO.

The suit centered on a passage in which Kyle, who was slain in 2013, described fighting with a man in a California bar in 2006 during the wake for SEAL Mikey Monsoor, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.

Kyle wrote that he hit the man after he said that the SEALs "deserve to lose a few," according to numerous media reports, including CNN affiliate KARE. In later interviews, Kyle said he was referring to Ventura.

In the suit, Ventura denied making the statements in the book.

Ventura filed the suit before Kyle's death, according to the New York Times.

At his deposition in 2012, Kyle continued to insist his book accurately described his clash with Ventura.

"He was complaining about the war, that we shouldn't be there," Kyle testified. "Complaining about Bush, that, you know, Bush was a war criminal. How we were killing innocent men and women and children overseas."

Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle's widow, is listed on the jury verdict paperwork because she is the executor of his estate.

She provided a written statement to the WCCO: "When it comes to my family, honor and standing up for what is right, I am never out of the fight."

The station said her attorney told reporters they might appeal the verdict.

Some are blasting Ventura on social media because they feel Ventura's actions are tantamount to suing a slain service member's widow. Several are posting unflattering photo-shopped images of Ventura and calling him names.

On Wednesday, HarperCollins spokeswoman Sharyn Rosenblum told CNN that the publisher is removing passages which refer to Ventura.

Kyle's killing in 2013

In 2013, a Marine veteran was accused of shooting and killing Kyle, 38, and another military veteran, Chad Littlefield, at a Texas gun range near Fort Worth.

Ex-Navy sniper, another military vet, killed at range

CNN reported at the time that Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said the ex-Marine suspect, 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, admitted to his sister that he shot the men. Routh didn't explain to her why he did it, Bryant said.

At the time of the shooting, Bryant said that Routh's mother, a longtime schoolteacher, "may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try and help her son."

Kyle had established the nonprofit FITCO Cares Foundation to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder obtain exercise equipment. Littlefield was Kyle's friend and also worked to help people with PTSD, said FITCO Director Travis Cox.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in December 2013 that Kyle and Littlefield had taken Routh to the gun range believing it would help Routh deal with PTSD.

Routh was scheduled for trial in October but it has been postponed, according to the newspaper, which said that defense attorneys were examining thousands of documents.

On April 30, the Stephenville Empire-Tribune reported that the trial was again postponed in order to conduct DNA testing.

Routh is being held at the Erath County Jail on a $3 million bond for capital murder, according to the newspaper.

He has not entered a plea, said Erath District Court Clerk Wanda Pringle.

CNN's Justin Lear contributed to this report.

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