Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura appears to have settled his long-running lawsuit, in which he alleged that “American Sniper,” a bestselling memoir by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, contained a fabricated account of a barroom fight Kyle had with Ventura.
A document filed by Ventura’s Minneapolis attorney, David Olsen, in U.S. District Court on Friday said that Ventura and Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, have agreed that the lawsuit was being dismissed “with both parties to bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs.”
Reached Friday after the filing, Ventura declined to comment on the development, saying he will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon. Olsen could not be reached.
Ventura was governor from 1999 to 2003. The bar incident that Ventura said never happened allegedly occurred in 2006.
In an interview with the Star Tribune earlier this year, Ventura had said that settlement discussions were taking place.
In July 2014, a federal jury in St. Paul awarded Ventura $1.8 million, following a three-week trial, that included $500,000 for defamation and $1.35 million for “unjust enrichment” under an obscure Minnesota law.
But the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision in June 2016, saying that the “unjust enrichment” law does not apply to defamation cases. It also threw out the defamation award, concluding that the jury had been improperly influenced by several questions and statements that Olsen made during the trial, that were permitted at the time by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle, no relation to Chris Kyle.
The Appeals Court remanded the defamation portion of the case to the district court for retrial, if Ventura wished to pursue it.
Ventura has previously said that he would seek a retrial unless he was reimbursed for his legal costs and it was acknowledged that the statements in the book were untrue.
HarperCollins published “American Sniper” in 2012 that included several pages in which Kyle claimed he confronted an unnamed “celebrity” and Vietnam veteran whom he dubbed Scruff Face during a wake for a Navy SEAL in California.
Kyle wrote that Scruff Face made disparaging remarks about SEALs, the Iraq war and then-President George W. Bush and Kyle punched the celebrity, knocking him to the floor.
In national radio and TV interviews as soon as the book came out, Kyle said that Scruff Face was Ventura.
Ventura demanded a retraction, saying Chris Kyle made up the story, and when Kyle refused, he filed suit. In 2013 Kyle was shot to death in Texas in an unrelated incident, and Ventura continued his suit against Kyle’s estate, in which Taya Kyle was the executor.
Ventura now has a commentary show on Russian television, which in most areas can only be accessed on the internet.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224