“I don’t feel good because the SEALs are my unit and I can’t go out to a reunion anymore, and I’ve been to more SEAL reunions than I have high school reunions and I’ve never missed a high school reunion. And I can’t go now because that was the place I felt safe and I don’t anymore. That’s been violated…and it can never be restored.” – Jesse Ventura (after the verdict)
“All of my witnesses, three of them, were with me all night long; two of them former SEALs and another SEALs wife. And they all testified there was nothing like that that even took place that night…to me it was a slam dunk.” – Jesse Ventura
On Tuesday, July 29th, 2014, a St Paul, Minnesota court awarded Jesse Ventura 1.8 million dollars in the defamation lawsuit against the Chris Kyle estate. 8 jurors agreed that Jesse Ventura had been defamed while only 2 jurors agreed that Chris Kyle’s story was true. Ventura told CBS This Morning hosts that the 1.8 million will pay for his lawyer fees. It’s a hefty price to clear his name, but well worth it.
Jesse Ventura appeared on CBS This Morning to explain why he pursued this lawsuit, “You pursue a lawsuit for the truth.” The former Governor of Minnesota told the hosts. “The whole story was fabricated. I was accused of treason, which in the military is the death penalty…the bottom line is it never happened…Taya Kyle had all her attorney fees paid by insurance. I did not. I incurred two-and-a-half years of lawyer fees that I have to pay to clear my name, and she had insurance paying everything for her.”
Don’t expect to see Jesse Ventura at any future SEAL reunions either, “That was the one place that I always felt safe. I can’t go there anymore. I would be looking over my shoulder now wondering who’s going to come after me next. And so, don’t think I come out of this unscathed.”
After the verdict, Ventura’s lawyers stated that there were no winners in this lawsuit. From the very beginning of the fabricated “sucker-punch” story, Ventura only sought to clear his name. Ventura was accused of saying that the SEALs in Iraq “deserved to lose a few.” Chris Kyle claimed he punched Ventura at Mc P’s bar in 2006, a bar owned by a former SEAL who is close friends with the former governor.
What happened? Or didn’t happen?
Follow Marino Eccher on Twitter for more about the Jesse Ventura Defamation Case.
“An insurance company’s paying for the whole thing anyway. The insurance company of the book publisher…I just have to sue her simply because she is now [the executor of] the estate since he had passed away. It’s just a legal procedure you have to go through because of a death.” – Jesse Ventura
The alleged incident happened on October 12, 2006 at McP’s bar in San Diego.
“McP’s bar is owned by Doc McParkland, who was my seal cadre instructor when I just came out of training. He instructed me in Seal SBI, seal basic indoctrination and he owns that establishment and I would never ever misbehave in the Doc’s establishment. I have too much respect for him, and if people want to truly clear this up, call him.” – Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura’s civil trial of his defamation lawsuit began on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at the Warren E. Burger Federal Building & United States Courthouse in St. Paul Minnesota. The judge, jury and court audience, including journalist Marino Eccher, heard the November 2012 deposition of the late Chris Kyle. Kyle told his version of what happened at McP’s bar in San Diego, California in 2006, during the wake of fellow Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor.
In the deposition, Kyle claimed Ventura said the SEALs deserved to lose a few soldiers. If Ventura was as disgusted with soldiers as Kyle claimed, why would the former Governor of Minnesota attend the wake in the first place? Why was Jesse Ventura at the graduation ceremony for the SEAL graduates the following day without any visible marks on his face? Chris Kyle allegedly fled the scene after he “sucker-punched” Ventura because he saw police nearby. Kyle claimed he punched Ventura because he felt Ventura was about to punch him. “I felt I was fixing to get punched,” Kyle told one of Ventura’s lawyers, David Olson in the 2012 deposition. Kyle admitted Ventura never raised his arm or took a full swing at Kyle.
Jesse Ventura was at the bar on the night in question. Ventura arrived at the bar by 8:30 p.m. Asked if he knew Chris Kyle, Ventura responded, “I have no recollection of him whatsoever.” Asked about the alleged comments Kyle said Ventura made, the former governor stated he would never speak that way about military servicemen, “I view those veterans as victims.”
Marion Eccher reported that Ventura “said he wasn’t drinking and hasn’t done so since he started taking blood-thinning medication after leaving the governor’s mansion. The medication also causes him to bleed and bruise easily, he said — to the point where he no longer uses bladed razors and sustains bruises from otherwise unremarkable bumps and knocks.” As for the petition to remove Jesse Ventura from the Underwater Demolition Team/SEAL Association, Ventura explained it was regarding “his continued pursuit of the lawsuit after Kyle’s death, not for the conduct described in Kyle’s story,” according to what Marion Eccher reported at Twincities.com.
Jesse Ventura says the incident never happened. Chris Kyle said it did. What did the witnesses say?
Witnesses who said the incident did not happen:
Bill DeWitt is a former SEAL who underwent Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training with Jesse Ventura beginning in 1969. Pioneer Press journalist Marion Eccher was in the courtroom for the duration of the defamation case and reported, “The DeWitts, Ventura and other BUD/S classmates were in San Diego in 2006 for a reunion and graduation ceremony. They convened at McP’s bar the night before the ceremony — the same night Kyle and his colleagues were at the bar for the wake of slain SEAL Michael Monsoor.”
Mr. DeWitt did not see or hear of any bar fight that involved Jesse Ventura. If someone had punched Ventura, he told Kyle estate attorney Leita Walker, “You’d have had a whole bunch of 60-year-olds all over you.” Bill DeWitt stated if Ventura was being loud, as Kyle claimed, Dewitt would have heard it. Dewitt was asked about a 2013 petition to have Ventura removed from the Underwater Demolition Team-SEAL Association. When the petition reached DeWitt, he did not sign it, adding, “You weren’t there.” If DeWitt thought there was any validity to Kyle’s claim he would have confronted Ventura.
Charlene DeWitt is Bill DeWitt’s wife. Before McP’s, she had never met Jesse Ventura. “I was eavesdropping on Jesse,” she said in court. She overheard Ventura say, “I don’t think this war is worth one SEAL dying for.” Marion Eccher wrote, “She heard him criticize the war in Iraq but didn’t hear him badmouth fallen soldiers or argue with younger servicemen. She said she didn’t see him get into a fistfight or sport a black eye or bruised face in the following days.”
Bill and Charlene DeWitt were with Ventura during the graduation ceremony that took place the following day. Neither recalled witnessing a bar fight, nor did they hear anything about the alleged incident in the days and years afterwards.
Robert Leonard was Jesse Ventura’s classmate from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, who also testified that he didn’t see a confrontation involving Jesse Ventura. He didn’t hear about a fight or a confrontation after the alleged incident either. Robert Leonard did not believe Ventura would say we deserved to lose a few soldiers, “That just seems like an unbelievable statement.”
Witnesses who claim the incident did happen:
Laura DeShazo is the sister of a Navy SEAL and an education specialist for Utah’s public schools. Laura, her sister and another female took a picture with Ventura that night. She testified, “I saw Mr. Ventura get hit,” but claims she didn’t know who hit him. She allegedly watched the incident for a few seconds before turning away. She claims the incident happened on the bar’s patio.
However, Marion Eccher pointed out that Chris Kyle said the incident happened on a sidewalk outside the patio, “Kyle’s testimony in a 2012 deposition, place the incident on a sidewalk outside the patio and in the opposite direction from where DeShazo said she witnessed it.”
Eccher reported that DeShazo “was certain the fight took place on the bar’s patio, where the wake was held and where Ventura and his Navy classmates had gathered for a reunion of their own.” Eccher also wrote that “some details of her account — particularly where the former Minnesota governor was standing when she saw the incident – don’t match with other versions of the story.”
John Kelly is a current Navy SEAL who was also at McP’s on October 12, 2006. Kelly testified he heard Ventura talking about his opposition to the Iraq War. Kelly said he saw Ventura on the ground after the alleged incident. Kelly claimed he saw Chris Kyle run from the scene. Kelly said Kyle later told him he punched Ventura. Kelly met Kyle at another bar the same night. At that bar, Kyle allegedly told Kelly he punched Ventura after Ventura the SEALs deserved to lose a few.
Andrew Paul is also a Navy SEAL who was at the bar that night for the wake of Michael Monsoor. In a deposition played in the courtroom, he testified he did not see the punch, but did see Ventura getting up off the ground with a bloody lip. He also claims he heard Ventura say, “I’m going to fucking kill you.” Apparently, no one else heard Ventura say that. Paul described Ventura’s view on 9/11 as radical. Paul said Kyle told him about the incident the next day. Andrew Paul was Chris Kyle’s superior.
Rosemary DeShazo is a Utah doctor and sister of a SEAL. She is also the sister of another eyewitness, Laura DeShazo. Rosemary did not see the fight her sister claims to have seen. Rosemary testified she heard Ventura say that Michael Monsoor “probably deserved it.” She also claimed Ventura said, “They die all the time.”
Bob Gassoff is also a Navy SEAL who was at the wake at McP’s. In a video deposition, Gassoff said he heard a commotion around the area where the alleged incident took place.
Jeremiah Dinnell is a former Navy SEAL who was also at the bar that night. He claims he tried to buy Ventura beer. According to his testimony, Ventura turned him down because he didn’t drink because of blood-thinner medication. Dinnell is the second person who claims to have actually seen the sucker-punch. Marion Eccher wrote, “As [Dinnell] was moving between bars, he said, he saw Ventura take an aggressive stance and say SEALs deserved to lose a few men in Iraq. Then Kyle hit him and Ventura went down…Dinnell seemed to say in his deposition he saw it on the patio, but said Wednesday it happened on the sidewalk.”
Kevin Lacz served with Chris Kyle in Iraq as a SEAL. He did not see the alleged punch, but claims he saw Ventura get up off of the ground. He also said he saw Chris Kyle leaving the scene. Though Chris Kyle claimed in his deposition he fled the scene because police were in the area, as seen above, one of the eyewitnesses stated Kyle was in another bar, apparently within walking distance, to tell the story of the sucker punch.
John Jones is a SEAL reservist who was at McP’s the night of the alleged incident. Jones was close friends with Chris Kyle. Jones didn’t see the alleged punch but claims he did see Ventura getting up off the ground. Jones did not hear Ventura say anything bad about soldiers.
The Rough Draft
There were many drafts for Chris Kyle’s story about what happened outside the bar on October 12, 2006, ending with a refined version of Chris Kyle punching Jesse Ventura. The book was written by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice and was released in 2012.
Journalist Marion Eccher has been in the courtroom from the beginning of this trial and he will be there until it’s over. “Court Anderson, one of Ventura’s attorneys, asked [Jim] DeFelice why he’d tweaked the story in various drafts and removed details that didn’t make the final version, including Ventura’s head hitting the ground, the former Minnesota governor staying down and the police showing up. Did DeFelice trim those parts because he thought they’d make the story easier to verify, Anderson asked? No, the author said — it was simply part of refining the story in the writing process. Anderson asked if DeFelice ever checked with Coronado police to see if they’d reported the incident. He had not, he said.”
Marion Eccher was present in the courtroom when the civil trial of Jesse Ventura’s defamation lawsuit came to a close. Ventura’s attorneys believe they have proven their case that Chris Kyle lied about the sucker punch and that the lie damaged Jesse Ventura. They believe photos taken after the alleged sucker punch prove there were no signs that Jesse Ventura had been in a fight.
Marion Eccher reported, “For Ventura to win, jurors must find that Kyle’s story was false and that Kyle acted with what’s known as “actual malice” in telling it — he either knew it wasn’t true or acted with reckless disregard for the facts. They must also find Ventura was damaged by the story.”
After a three week trial, Jesse Ventura was awarded 1.8 million dollars in damages in his lawsuit against the Chris Kyle estate. His attention will now turn to the publisher of Chris Kyle’s book, HarperCollins. Ventura told CBS This Morning, “They published the book and did no due diligence to find out if the story was true.” HarperCollins plans on removing the passage about the “sucker-punch” from Kyle’s book, according to what HarperCollins spokeswoman Erin Crum told The Associated Press.
“All I wanted to do is clear my name and it has nothing to do with a widow or anything like that. It was me against an insurance company.” – Jesse Ventura
Most of the above story was based on Marion Eccher’s articles at Twincities.com. Here are the links to the original articles by Marion Eccher:
Here’s the YouTube video I made when Jesse Ventura decided to sue Chris Kyle: