Scruff Face Loses a Round to Dead Chris Kyle

Law-ScaleAndHammerChris Kyle was already dead, but his widow Taya Kyle lost a large judgment in a lawsuit by Jesse “Scruff Face” Ventura against the estate of the murdered SEAL. Ventura, who in his pre-showbiz/politics life was a SEAL/UDT named James Janos, sued Kyle based on a sea story in Kyle’s book American Sniper. In the story, Kyle belts a former SEAL turned celebrity who’s badmouthing serving SEALS.

The description (physical and behavioral) seemed to fit Ventura, whom quite a few SEALS have wanted to haul off and sock in the jaw over the years, and before his untimely death, Kyle confirmed in a radio interview that he did mean Ventura. Ventura sued, and without Kyle to testify the preponderance of evidence suggests that Kyle’s story as published had, at least, been “improved.” Well, that’s the nature of sea stories, isn’t it?

But a jury seems to have awarded Ventura, who hasn’t amounted to much since his disastrous turn as a Minnesota governor, functionally all of the money Kyle made on his book. Taya Kyle appealed and the 8th Circuit handed her a large win — and smacked Scruff Face in the jaw, figuratively. The Minneapolis Red Star/Tribune’s Randy:

A three-judge panel unanimously threw out the $1.35 million award to Ventura for “unjust enrichment,” saying Minnesota law did not permit it. And in a 2-1 decision, it reversed the $500,000 award for defamation, remanding the case to the district court for a new trial on that question.

The decision was a victory for Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who wrote the bestselling memoir “American Sniper” that Ventura said defamed him. It was also a win for national news organizations that had urged that the verdict be thrown out.

“If a person bringing a libel suit could collect not just for damages, but for unjust enrichment … the whole nature of libel law would have been changed in a very threatening way,” said Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment attorney in New York, who had filed an amicus brief on behalf of 33 news organizations.

The ruling was a serious blow to Ventura, the former professional wrestler who served as governor from 1999 to 2003.

Only two guys know whether Chris Kyle belted Jesse Ventura on that boozy night in 2006, and Kyle’s station doesn’t come up on the net any more. (True or false, the story doesn’t reflect glory on either SEAL. “Hey, I decked some Social Security age dude?” And Ventura opened himself up for this kind of thing when he badmouthed the guys downrange during wartime, which is something he actually did even if he didn’t use the words Kyle’s story puts in his mouth).

We understand why Ventura would have the jaws about a story that paints him in a horrible  and negative light, especially compared to his carefully tended public persona. Doubly especially if that story is not true.

But what’s the right answer, if somebody lied about you? Is it to get the truth out, or is it to clean out the accounts of his widow and orphan? Pursuing this suit has just made Ventura look even worse. We totally understand why he might have done it, but he’s hurting himself.  And we’re here to predict that he’s going to fight this back in the district court (where the defamation judgment’s been remanded for a new trial) and to the Supreme Court (where he can appeal this 8th Circuit ruling, although it seems like a long shot). The story isn’t over. However unfortunate that may be for the reputation of the SEAL Teams and SOF in general.

28 thoughts on “Scruff Face Loses a Round to Dead Chris Kyle

  1. Bert

    Hey, Jesse wasn’t THAT bad a governator-

    I mean, we have (effectively) a worse one here in MN right now, he’s on so many pain medications for his back problems that he is doing well just to stand upright and make polite noises. Did stage effects at an event he was supposed to be a motivational speaker for weekend before last, poor dude was glassy eyed and could hardly move/talk.

    Buzz Aldrin did a good turn on the same stage, George Takei was there too- and his talk kicked ass, although he’s getting on for 80. Guess spacemen just age better.

    1. aczarnowski

      Yep, any governor I don’t remember is all right in my book. Though the stupid in St. Paul does does offer a lot of concealment and even, sometimes, cover…

    2. Hognose Post author

      Interesting mix of guys. Aldrin I’ve met a few times, extremely high energy fellow.

      Hey, were you the guys who used to do the FOOM at the Oshkosh warbird show, the Great Wall of Fire?

      1. LCPL Martinez USMC

        I read the book American Sniper and I saw the movie by Eastwood,

        I liked the movie, which made Chris’ character likable. But when I read his book, all I thought was what a dick… so as benefit of doubt goes, I figured hey maybe its the ghost writer that’s a dick—- kinda like when Linda Robinson wrote Masters of Chaos ala Nora Roberts.

        Of all military memoirs I’ve read, American Sniper was definitely at the bottom of my list, right next to Lone Survivor which is further down. So I’m already kinda biased (full disclosure, LOL).

        But re sea stories. I just don’t think it happened, I’m not a fan of Ventura or anything, but when compared to Chris Kyle’s pattern of sea stories, Ventura’s version of events seems to have more merit IMHO… there’s the extra awards fiasco; then the sniping at looters after Katrina sea story; then you got the whole kill count bs; then you have the carjacking in TX story, god knows what other stories …. Chris Kyle sure has plenty of tall tales.

        So long as Ventura’s suit is business and not personal, ie. it’s against the publishers, then if it’s a lie (which I’m sure it is, based on the pattern of sea stories from Kyle), Ventura’s got good cause here.

        1. mr. sharkman

          From one Amphibious MFer to another: It happened.

          Don’t buy into the negative, usually intentionally accurate hype about the book discrepancies.

          Track down some Marine 03xx who were with him at one bullet launching party or another if you want an opinion you know you can trust.

          I can tell you with 100% certainty that the only reason the book came to be was he was told ‘someone is going to write a book about you, it is probably best you be as involved as possible’.

          1. LCPL Martinez DM

            @@@ mr. sharkman,

            Just to be sure, I’m not denying that Kyle was a great sniper. I’m just saying, the pattern of over extended sea stories, leads me to believe much of his other tall tales are probability-wise, based on said pattern, false—- or at the very least suspect.

            There’s two things overlapping here, 1) the tall tales (many of us know folks prone to spinning sea stories, no biggie) and 2) the libel/slander suit . It’s very hard to make a decision on 2, unless you’ve made a decision on 1. When it comes to he said/she said testimonies, it’s best to rely on CSI -type evidence,

            and since no camera footage are available from that bar in Coronado, common sense tells us to follow-up on Kyle’s other seemingly questionable tall tales. 1. first, then 2. It’s great that there are wits, but in police parlance they are not “independent” wits, so it’s not that I don’t believe you but I’d prefer other means to get to the truth here… hence my question to you re Katrina and TX carjacking.

            Either way, it’s just my 2 cents on this, at the end of the day, I wasn’t there. Just one opinionated Marine from the desert, LOL!

          1. Hognose Post author

            Re: accuracy of records.

            1. I’ve been trying since I retired to get credit for 1987 back. Army records say I got off active duty in 1986, exactly one year earlier than I did.
            2. The Army has lost track of 16 years I spent in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They believe that some clerk at MA JFHQ never submitted paperwork on me and hundreds of other soldiers. (I have copious records proving my contentions, not to mention lots of people who knew me at these times and places).
            3. When I was six months into the Army or so, clerks cut orders awarding me the Good Conduct Medal, 3rd Award (for nine years of unblemished-by-bad-actor-stuff service. I have never been successful in getting it removed, or the first, second, and third awards i did earn subsequently awarded. Nobody really cares (and neither do I). The GCM is not highly prized in SF.

            I know some people have had really accurate DD214s, and more power to them. As a guy who went back and forth between active, reserve, Guard, and deployments, I have several of them and they all have something small wrong with them.

          2. Martinez USMC

            Thanks, Tam.

            Like I said I’m not too keen on the awards, that’s more an S-1 (admin) fiasco than a tall tale really—- but like I said, when you’re talking to an admin clerk over your DD214s, you can point out mistakes… granted you have to offer proof, but if it’s wrong before you sign the damn thing you are told to correct it!

            I’ve known Marines who read and signed their 214s just so they can leave already (but we’re talking about fire watch type awards, hell for Bronze & Silver i’d stage a sit-in protest to get S-1 to unfuck their shit, LOL!). I guess re awards, I’d be more curious about the stories associated with them—- ie. whether tall tales or not, but that happened out there,

            I’m actually more interested in Katrina and TX carjacking -type stories associated with the promotion of the book. At least those things happened here and there’s gonna ways to follow-up, right?

            And then connect all questionable stories told to the libel/slander case to establish a pattern of behavior.

  2. Loren

    Ventura and I have the same lawyer. Good guy for a lawyer and amazingly good at what he does.
    Mrs Kyle was represented by the publishers insurance and this has cost her nothing. The lawyers fees and judgement would have been paid by insurance.
    Still glad she won.

  3. Larry Kaiser

    You should probably know the difference between sea stories and fairy tales. A fairy tale starts out “once upon a time” and a sea story starts out “now, this ain’t no shit”.

  4. Aesop

    Jesse needs to take Will Rogers’ timeless advice, and never pass up a good opportunity to shut up.

    But like Ron White, he has the right to remain silent, but not the ability.

  5. DB

    I think we’re missing the bubble here. It’s not who is right, who is wrong, who is lying, or who is a dick. In the military there is always a guy in your unit you absolutely cannot stand, and the feeling is usually mutual. When they fall you might want to piss on their grave. And you might actually do that. Fine. But when that last shovel of dirt goes on, no matter what you make sure the widow and children are taken care of. You absolutely do not sue them.

    1. bloke_from_ohio

      To sue a widow is bad taste. To sue a war widow is deplorable. To sue a war widow when you yourself are a veteran is unacceptable. The level of buddy f****r going on in this fiasco is depressing.

  6. Haxo Angmark

    wahtever, whichever. Jesse was great in Predator (only movie ever made that featured TWO future gubnors of US states), and some of his lines – like “lose it here and you’re in a world of hurt” – will live forever

  7. mr. sharkman

    More than 2 (Team)guys know.

    The incident was being discussed within the community for months before Kyle’s book came out.

    There has also been a serious lack of attention to detail regarding the original lawsuit and verdict.

    There were Teamguys present at McPs when ‘someone’ got KTFO who were getting ready to fly out and testify.

    Once their testifying was a certainty, Ventura’s lawyer somehow changed the basis for damages to ‘It does not matter if the incident actually took place as described in the book, because the description in the book – true or false – still damaged Ventura’s image and reputation and thus his earning power’.

    Prior to that change, Ventura’s mantra had been ‘It never happened, the book lies’.

    As for Ventura, he was given a pass on calling himself a SEAL when he was from a very unique era in NSW and was in fact a UDT member.

    A former SEAL Officer and Vietnam veteran has some very telling writing regarding Ventura:

    http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/1999/dec/02/jesse-great-pretender-ventura/

    http://cursor.org/venturawatch/dangerous_game.htm

    I’ll also add that Ventura is one of the very few former SEAL/UDT guys to have a vote cast by other members of the FO to remove him from the FO.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Interesting story. Interesting also that he “said more in 15 minutes” after coming to UDT than his brother Jan did in his whole tour — probably an exaggeration, but shows that he was a loudmouth long before he was a wrestler, politician, or lawsuit entrepreneur.

      “FO” = Frogman Organization or something? Like our Special Forces Ass’n or the all-services (but combat only) SOA?

      Since the UDT/SEAL merger (which was over 35 years ago, says that story) I’ve not bothered to maintain a punctilious distinction between SEALs and UDTs. Perhaps I’ve been mistaken in that. I respect the living daylights out of you guys which is not the same as saying I understand you. I mean, occasionally we ate in the same chow hall in an isolation area or rode the same Pave Low to or from work, but you guys did your thing and we did ours.

      SF is a lot larger than SEALs. As a result, we’ve probably thrown a lot more weasels out of our organizations, but it’s still extremely rare. A guy can go to prison for murdering his wife and come back to reunions when he’s paroled. (Helps if he has the DSC, of course). But an honor offense will do it.

      1. mr. sharkman

        FO = Fraternal Order. Former NSW from any era.

        The UDT vs. SEAL is a very ‘esoteric’ ‘issue’.

        From what I have seen – my opinion only – guys from Ventura’s era are the only cases where any difference is drawn. Mainly because both units existed at the time, during a shooting war, and the duties and ops were so different.

        Korean War UDTs were doing inland raids and other commando type ops. Essentially doing the Scouts & Raiders thing because they were the only unit in existence at the time that was comparable.

        Ventura is the only case where I’ve seen any difference ever become an issue. Because he’s a loud mouthed POS.

        And he did a hell of a lot more than ‘badmouth’ current AD SEALs. He wandered into McPs while there were drinks being downed in Mikey Monsoor’s (SEAL, MoH) name, and his family was present. He was running his suck on matters political, was politely & deferentially asked to keep it down, and would have none of it. And if he’d been a ‘Frog’s Frog’, the next day he would have shrugged off the lumps, apologized profusely, and before too long it would have been nearly a forgotten matter. But that didn’t happen.

        And of course the greatest joke of all regarding his comment about GWOT Teamguys, killing of civilians, and ‘you deserved to lose a few guys’ is that he’s never been in combat, ever.

        Think of the FO like the SFA. I call it the Fraternal Order (former name) but for some time the ‘official’ title has been the ‘UDT/SEAL Association’:
        https://www.udtseal.org/

        I’ll apply to the SOA someday. Just to get my hero worship on at the conventions. ;)

        1. Hognose Post author

          That’s about 90% or what SOA does, the annual SOAR.

          SF has some internal schisms.

          Vietnam era guys tend to see USAR and NG SF guys as draft dodgers (after the war, VN vets took important roles in rebuilding those orgs). And SOA draws a line between A Team guys and other SF missions in RVN (SOG, Mike Force, Greek projects, etc.). Lots of bad blood over that.

          1. mr. sharkman

            Yeah, just to be 150% sparkling clear: me, personally, due to my age/era, would never get involved in any discussion between/among Vietnam era UDT and SEAL team members about ‘differences’. I consider every former UDT member to be a respected elder on principle.

            However, I am very comfortable calling attention to former SEAL O Salisbury’s very informed and relevant opinion and views regarding Ventura and his grand standing.

        2. LCPL Martinez 29 Palms

          I thought the original issue was that in the book, no mention of Ventura only a pseudonym, but when promoting the book, Chris Kyle then kept fluffing the story while actually naming Ventura—- the story evolved to a total smack down version. That I think was Ventura’s issue.

          (kinda like Luttrell’s back and forth with… did they vote to let those Taliban shepherds go or not (why not just tie ’em up); and were there magazines still on him at the time of recovery, etc.)

          I know a lot of this is he said-she said, I get that.

          And I can totally appreciate it, barracks life as such. BUT from a libel/slander perspective, since book promotion was the thrust (meaning sales), if this particular Ventura story did sell books, then Ventura can and should attempt to fleece the publishers.

          I think there’s a video or interview on record, where Ventura states clearly that he’s not suing the wife & family of Chris Kyle but the publishers. So that guy Loren above is consistent with everything I’ve read on this.

          This case would have been more interesting had Chris Kyle still been alive, because I think Ventura had a very good case on him… now it’s just about Ventura vs. Mrs. Kyle and kids (which never looks good), and Ventura’s case diminished, once it became a David/Goliath type PR war.

          Ventura’s legal, PR team should’ve explained that they were after the publishers not Mrs. Kyle.

          @@@ mr. sharkman,

          Do you also think that the TX carjacking incident w/ Kyle happened?
          What about the Katrina sniping at looters while still an active SEAL?
          The extra awards stuff, I’m not too keen, but I can understand S-1 flukes, but that’s why you read and sign to make sure no S-1 screw-ups.

          This case should also bring forth those other stories told in the promotion of his book, if only to get some pattern of these Chris Kyle sea stories.

          I think the carjacking story involved either a 911 call and or police contact (so why not follow-up); as for the Katrina sniping at looters as an active SEAL, DoD would have some record of operating on American soil (so again why not follow-up)?

          In my professional opinion (having lived in barracks, LOL!) these sea stories are pretty easy to ascertain, simply by asking follow-up questions.

          My favorite quote in Clint Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper’, was when his VA psychologist says the Navy credits you with so and so kills, LOL!

          1. LCPL Martinez 29 Palms

            re Katrina sniping,

            by the way, I’m from L.A. and saw as a kid US Marines roll into town during the 92 riots, but they were under police CHP and/or LAPD supervision. In the Marines, doing urban ops (for the SOC capability under MEUSOC) again there a lot of go between with local PDs.

            hence my bs meter rings re Katrina sniping story.

            As for the TX carjacking, my bs meter rings because of that police/911 contact, had Kyle simply told the story straight as a salvage, dump the body, no one knows story, I’d have probably bought it, but he added 911/police contact which can be followed -up on record ;-) .

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