MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A jury was set to hear opening statements Tuesday in Jesse Ventura's defamation case against the estate of a slain sniper who had claimed he punched the former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler inside a bar.
After only about two hours of questioning from the judge, the four-woman, six-man jury was seated to hear the trial pitting Ventura against the widow of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle.
Ventura alleges that Kyle, regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, defamed him in his best-selling book. In it, Kyle describes a 2006 bar fight in which Kyle says he punched a man, later identified as Ventura, knocking him to the ground. Kyle also claimed Ventura made disparaging remarks about servicemen.
Ventura, a former Navy SEAL and wrestler, says the fight never happened. He served a four-year term as governor, departing in January 2003.
Kyle and a friend were killed in February 2013 at a Texas gun range. Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, is now the defendant in Ventura's case. Ventura and Taya Kyle are both expected to testify.
Ventura, who often had a contentious relationship with the Minnesota media, declined to speak to reporters as court broke for lunch. He kept a serious expression on his face most of the morning, cracking only an occasional smile while speaking with his attorneys.
Legal experts have said Ventura has to prove that Kyle made up the story and profited from it, and that Ventura's reputation was hurt as a result.
Ventura said earlier this year that his lawsuit is "about clearing my name," but significant money is at stake. Kyle's book has made more than $3 million in royalties and the judge in the case has ruled that profits from an upcoming movie could be subject to damages, too.
Ventura, who has hosted several cable TV shows since his single term as Minnesota's governor ended in 2002, has said his job offers dried up after the book was published and he was worried about being seen as a traitor to the military.
In the book, Kyle describes an incident in a California bar in which he claims Ventura was speaking loudly against President George W. Bush, the Iraq War and Navy SEAL tactics. Kyle, also a former Navy SEAL, claimed Ventura said the SEALS "deserve to lose a few."