ST. PAUL Minn. (Reuters) - The widow of a late Navy SEAL accused of defaming former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura testified on Wednesday in a federal trial that her husband was a humble man who planned to give away proceeds from a best-selling book.
At the heart of the trial is whether Ventura and Chris Kyle, who was killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran, got into an altercation after a chance encounter at a California bar in October 2006.
Kyle said in a best-selling book and later interviews he punched Ventura in the face after the former governor made disparaging remarks about SEALs. Ventura has said he made no such remarks and the confrontation never happened.
When asked Wednesday by Ventura’s attorney whether Kyle’s story about the confrontation was true, Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, replied: “My husband doesn’t lie.”
They also planned to give away the proceeds from Kyle’s best-selling 2012 book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” she said.
“We are trying to find the right places and not just throw it away,” Taya Kyle said, adding that her husband did not display the medals he received and kept the descriptions of his deeds tucked in a notebook.
“Chris was just a humble guy,” she said.
Kyle described in the book a confrontation with a man he identified only as “Scruff Face,” who insisted that SEALs serving in Iraq had not suffered enough casualties. He quoted “Scruff Face” as saying: “You deserve to lose a few.” In later media interviews, Kyle said “Scruff Face” was Ventura.
Ventura, himself a former member of the Naval Special Forces Underwater Demolition/SEAL teams, sued Kyle in 2012, contending the encounter Kyle described never happened and the account had caused Ventura financial losses and harmed his reputation.
The lawsuit now names as the defendant Taya Kyle as overseer of her husband’s estate. Ventura, a former professional wrestler and actor who served as Minnesota’s governor from 1999 to 2003, has not specified a damage amount.
Several hours of a videotaped deposition Kyle gave before his death are expected to be played at the trial. Ventura also is expected to testify.
The jury is being asked to determine if Kyle’s statements were false and, because Ventura is a public figure, whether Kyle made them with actual malice.
The trial, which began on Tuesday, is expected to last about three weeks.
Reporting by Todd Melby; Editing by David Bailey and Eric Beech