ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A judge on Wednesday allowed former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the widow of slain "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle to go to trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle denied a motion by Chris Kyle's widow to dismiss the suit. The judge is not related to Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who was killed last year at a Texas gun range.
Ventura alleges Chris Kyle, considered to be the deadliest sniper in American history, defamed him in his best-selling book. In it, Kyle claimed he punched someone named "Scruff Face," whom he later identified as Ventura, in a 2006 bar fight. Ventura says the fight never happened.
"It's never been about money. It's about clearing my name. It's a lie," Ventura told The Associated Press in an interview last month.
The judge wrote Ventura has offered enough evidence that a jury could conclude Chris Kyle's statements were "materially false."
Ventura also has presented enough evidence "to create a genuine issue of fact as to whether Kyle knowingly (or recklessly) published false statements about him," the judge wrote, saying Ventura's defamation claim will be left to a jury to resolve.
Ventura's attorney, David Bradly Olsen, said Wednesday afternoon that he had not talked to Ventura yet.
"Obviously we're pleased by the decision and we think the judge got it correct. We've been saying from the beginning that this case should be decided by a jury, and the judge agreed with us," Olsen said. He expects a trial to be scheduled in June.
Chris Kyle and a friend were killed in February 2013; an Iraq war veteran whom Kyle was trying to help is accused in the killings. Earlier, another federal judge allowed Ventura's lawsuit to proceed with Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, as the defendant.
An attorney for Taya Kyle had no immediate reaction to the ruling Wednesday.