Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has had his day in court, which culminated yesterday in a judgment and large award in his favor. In an 8-2 verdict Tuesday in U.S. District Court, the jury found Ventura had been defamed by late Navy SEAL-turned-author Chris Kyle in the 2012 bestseller “American Sniper,” and awarded him more than $1.8 million for his reputation and for “unjust enrichment. The money apparently wasn’t the big win of the day for Jesse, who expressed relief that his “reputation is restored now.”
Defamation is a tough tort to tackle. The classic requirements of proving a defamation case are spelled out in the case of New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254 (1964). A plaintiff must show: 1. The statement or communication was defamatory; 2. That the statement or communication was false; 3. That the statement or communication referred to the plaintiff; and 4. That the statement or communication was published. Public figures must also prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.” For Ventura, this primarily meant proving three things: That Kyle’s story was defamatory, that it was false and that Kyle knew it was false or published it with serious doubts about its veracity. For more information on defamation, here is a helpful page from the Nolo website that sums up the tort in simple terms. Here are also some of the most timeless Jesse quotes in case you find those more interesting than his lawsuit.