There were two things Jesse Ventura was never supposed to win: the 1998 Minnesota Governor’s race, and his just-ended trial seeking a big payday from a hero’s widow.
But he was indeed a one-term Governor of an actual state, and now he has prevailed in another improbable arena— a courtroom where he asserted that one of America’s most admired war heroes lied about him on purpose.
The $1.8 million dollar judgment from a ten-person jury voting 8-2 is a direct raid on the family budget of Chris Kyle’s widow Taya and their two children. The first half-million will be covered by insurance from the publisher of “American Sniper,” which contained the story that Ventura has now turned into a lottery ticket. The remaining $1.3 million goes straight from the Kyle family’s bank account into Ventura’s on the foggy premise of “unlawful enrichment,” a concept that says Kyle’s estate is enjoying dirty money because a sliver of the book struck a jury as intentionally malicious.
Ventura’s determination was not even slowed by the death last year of Kyle, whose repeated deployments and successful takedowns of terrorists had become the stuff of legend. He died from a gunshot wound in Texas, shot at a gun range helping a fellow soldier battling PTSD.
The resulting Ventura legal strategy: full speed ahead. The logic: Kyle’s death does not change the reputational damage to a man who had already done plenty to damage his own reputation with loudly expressed views like the complicity of the Bush administration in 9/11.
The average 9/11 truther is a harmless chowderhead. But Ventura’s wandering mind found a megaphone in his “Conspiracy Theory” TV show that logged three seasons on truTV, giving credibility to old foil-hat favorites like weather control and martial law internment camps. He is free to embrace any poppycock he likes, even publicly, but it is hard to argue that the Kyle book had stained a sterling reputation.
So if you are gathering that my starting block defines Chris Kyle as a hero and Jesse Ventura as a buffoon, you are correct.
But here’s the rub: none of that matters.
The jury’s job was to determine whether the Kyle book spun intentional lies about Ventura intended to damage him. That’s a very high bar, but it is wholly separate from what anyone thinks of the parties involved.
So the testimony began almost a month ago. Kyle’s side offered testimony that Ventura, unidentified in “American Sniper” but named in book tour interviews, demeaned Navy SEALs at an actual wake for one of their fallen ranks in 2006. Kyle’s story is that he could not let this go, confronted Ventura and decked him.