Minnesota ex-governor Ventura sues HarperCollins over 'Sniper' book

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2014 3:11 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has sued HarperCollins Publishing, saying he was defamed in passage from a book it put out from an ex-Navy SEAL who claimed the two were in a bar fight.

Ventura, who in July won more than $1.8 million in damages from the estate of former SEAL Chris Kyle, filed suit in federal court in Minnesota on Monday against HarperCollins over the best-selling book "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History."

"HarperCollins published a false and defamatory story about Ventura and subsequently used that story to promote 'American Sniper' for its own economic advantage and gain," the lawsuit said.

A spokeswoman for HarperCollins said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Ventura is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for what he claims is unjust enrichment and defamation.

Kyle, killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran he was trying to mentor, wrote in the book that he got into a fight with a man identified as "Scruff Face" who made disparaging remarks about the Navy SEALS.

Kyle later identified the man as Ventura.

Lawyers for Ventura, who first gained national attention as a professional wrestler with a penchant for feathered boas, said his reputation was left in shambles by the passage.

Ventura felt vindicated when the jury this year returned a decision declaring the bar fight story to be a lie, Ventura's lawyers said.

HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corp, said in July the passage in the best-seller would be removed, without offering further details.

Lawyers for Kyle's estate contended Ventura's career was already fading and the defamation case was aimed at keeping his name in the headlines at the expense of an ex-SEAL who served his country with honor.

Ventura, a former member of the Naval Special Forces Underwater Demolition/SEAL teams, was Minnesota's governor from 1999 to 2003, after running as a third-party candidate.

A feature film based on Kyle's book, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, is due out later this month.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz)