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Ex-Minnesota governor alleges 'American Sniper' defamed him


ST. PAUL, Minn., July 8 (Reuters) - Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura's lawsuit accusing slain ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle of defaming him in a best-selling book and public statements went to trial Tuesday with jury selection in federal court in St. PaulMinnesota.

At issue in the trial is whether Kyle, the author of "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," a 2012 nonfiction bestseller, damaged the reputation of Ventura, a former SEAL who served one term as governor.

His 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 claimed in his book and in interviews supporting its sales that Ventura made disparaging remarks about servicemen and Kyle decked him with a punch to 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.

Kyle, a decorated sniper, was killed along with a neighbor in February 2013 at aTexas shooting range by a troubled Iraq war veteran he was trying to mentor.

Ventura's lawsuit filed against Kyle in 2012 now names as the defendant his widow, Taya Kyle, as the overseer of Kyle's estate.

Ventura and Taya Kyle were in court for the opening of the trial on Tuesday.