ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Attorneys for “American Sniper” widow Taya Kyle on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to throw out the $1.8 million defamation award a Minnesota jury gave former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
In July of 2014, a Minnesota jury ruled that the late Chris Kyle had defamed him in his book “American Sniper.” Kyle wrote that he had punched Ventura after he made disparaging remarks about Navy Seals.
It’s an incident Ventura insists never happened.
“Can they fabricate and win with something that never happened? I certainly hope not,” Ventura said Tuesday after the arguments.
Ventura said the award was fair because the controversy drove sales not just of the book “American Sniper,” but the blockbuster movie as well.
“I was the booster rocket that propelled this book to number one,” Ventura said.
Taya Kyle was not in court Tuesday. Ventura remains visibly angered over public criticism that he continued to pursue the lawsuit after Chris Kyle was murdered.
“We are talking about a multi-millionaire wife here and she is not going to pay a cent anyway, insurance company has got it from to bottom ,” Ventura said.
In closing arguments at the trial, Ventura’s attorney made a similar argument. David B Olsen told the jury that Taya Kyle would not be paying for any damages, that “the insurer is on the hook.”
Taya Kyle’s attorney argued that line from Olsen’s closing argument is one of the reasons the appeals court should throw out the award and order a new trial. And on this issue in their questioning, the appeals court appeared to side with Kyle. Chief Judge William Jay Riley even said, “In my experience that was over the line, tell me why we shouldn’t grant a mistrial over that.”
Thirty media companies, including the Washington Post and the New York times, have filed a brief in support of Taya Kyle, arguing the $1.8 million award is excessive and that mistakes were made during jury instructions. In their arguments, Ventura’s attorney stressed that the jury believed Ventura’s witnesses and did not believe Kyle’s.
There is no time limit for the Court of Appeals to make their ruling, but generally rulings are made within a few months.