July 8, 2014 / 5:56 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 2-Ex-Minnesota governor alleges 'American Sniper' defamed him

(Adds jury selected, opening statements expected later Tuesday)

By Todd Melby

ST. PAUL, Minn., July 8 (Reuters) - Jurors in a federal trial that began on Tuesday will hear videotaped testimony from a late Navy SEAL accused of defamation by former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.

Ten jurors were selected to hear the case against former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who was killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran he was trying to mentor. Opening statements were expected later on Tuesday.

Ventura, a former Navy SEAL who served one term as governor, contends his reputation was damaged by Kyle’s best-selling 2012 book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” and subsequent public statements.

Ventura’s lawsuit, filed against Kyle in 2012, now names as the defendant his widow, Taya Kyle, as the overseer of Kyle’s estate. Both were in court on Tuesday.

The lawsuit contends Kyle described an encounter with Ventura at a California bar in October 2006 that never happened, causing Ventura, a former professional wrestler and actor, financial losses in addition to harming his reputation.

Kyle, a decorated sniper, claimed in his book and in interviews supporting its sales that Ventura made disparaging remarks about servicemen and Kyle punched him in the face.

In his book, Kyle described an encounter with a man he identified only as “Scruff Face,” who insisted that SEALs serving in Iraq had not suffered enough casualties.

“You deserve to lose a few,” Kyle quoted “Scruff Face” as saying. In later media interviews, Kyle said “Scruff Face” was Ventura.

Ventura was expected to testify and several hours of videotaped depositions given by Kyle were expected to be played at the trial before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kyle, who is not related to the defendant.

The jury is being asked to determine whether Ventura was defamed, whether the statements were false and, because Ventura is a public figure, if Kyle made them with actual malice, a higher standard than for ordinary citizens.

The judge told the prospective jurors to expect the trial to last three weeks, possibly four. (Editing by David Bailey and Doina Chiacu)

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