Lawyer: Witnesses who say SEAL sniper punched Jesse Ventura were drunk
By DAVID HANNERS | (St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press | Published: January 8, 2014
The Navy SEALs who claim their comrade decked Jesse Ventura in a bar back in 2006 were too snockered to be reliable witnesses, a lawyer for the former governor contends.
In a legal memo filed Wednesday to rebut the SEALs' claims, Ventura lawyer David Bradley Olsen said the special forces members were attending a wake for one of their own, and by their own admission, the booze flowed freely.
Olsen wrote that the man who said he slugged Ventura, the late Chris Kyle, admitted as much in the chapter of the best-selling book that Ventura claims defamed him.
"SEAL funerals are kind of like Irish wakes, except there's a lot more drinking," Kyle wrote in his memoir, "American Sniper." "Which begs this question, how much beer do you need for a SEAL wake? That is classified information, but rest assured it is more than a metric (expletive)-ton."
Kyle, regarded as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, had written that he decked a loud-mouthed bar patron for making disparaging remarks about SEALs and others. In interviews on his book tour, he acknowledged he was talking about Ventura.
But the former governor -- himself once a member of the Navy's special forces -- says the punch never happened, and he sued Kyle for defamation in federal court.
Kyle, who retired from the Navy and started a private security firm in Dallas, was shot and killed in February by a former Marine allegedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ventura is continuing the suit against the man's widow, Taya Kyle, because she is executrix of her late husband's estate.
Taya Kyle has asked U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle to throw out the suit as baseless. Olsen's 51-page memorandum argues that Ventura was defamed and that the evidence the defense has presented so far doesn't support the late sniper's story.
The two sides will argue their cases at a hearing before Kyle in St. Paul on Jan. 29.
In a December legal memo supporting the Kyle estate's request to dismiss the suit, attorney John Borger argued there was enough evidence to support Kyle's claim about the alleged October 2006 punch at McP's Irish Pub & Grill in Coronado, Calif. -- and that there was no indication Ventura's reputation has suffered from the story.
Borger has provided depositions and affidavits from people who were at the bar with Kyle that support aspects of the man's story. Last month, he added sworn statements from two sisters who were there; one claims she saw somebody slug Ventura in a "typical bar fight."
The other sister claimed that when she told Ventura they were at the bar for a wake for a SEAL who had died in combat, he replied, "He probably deserved it. They die all the time."
"This statement offended me," the woman, Rosemary deShazo, of Salt Lake City, said in her affidavit. "In fact, Ventura's entire presence that night seemed to be pretty offensive to a lot of people. There had been some early excitement or talk about a celebrity being at McP's but he wore out his welcome pretty quickly."
In his rebuttal memo, Olsen said the deShazo sisters' affidavits are untimely and don't change anything.
"Although deShazo now says for the first time -- seven years after the fact and nearly two years after Kyle's book came out -- that she saw some unidentified person punch Ventura, as with all of the prior deliberately vague declarations she does not provide any other details regarding what supposedly happened, where, or who was involved," Olsen wrote.
Olsen provided a couple of new affidavits of his own to back up Ventura's version of events. Both are from men who graduated with Ventura -- then known by his birth name, Jim Janos -- in the Navy's Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Class 58. Both were in Coronado with Ventura that weekend in 2006 to attend a class reunion.
Robert Leonard, who now lives in Missouri, said in his affidavit that he and his wife were at McP's with Ventura and that "I never saw or heard Jim have an argument or engage in an altercation with anyone."
"Nor did I hear him say anything offensive or upsetting to anyone," Leonard wrote.
He said that he and his wife left the bar around 11 p.m. and that when they saw Ventura the next day, there was no discussion of a fight at McP's and "I saw no evidence that Jim had been punched the previous night. He had no bruising or any other marks on his face or elsewhere."
Similarly, Wayne Robertson, who now lives in Tennessee, said he saw Ventura the day after the supposed punch and there was no mention of it, nor did Ventura show any signs of having been punched.
"I can say unequivocally that had such an event occurred, the guys would have been talking about it the following day," he swore. "It simply never happened."
Robertson said the comments Kyle and others attributed to Ventura are things the man never would have uttered.
"Jim Janos is like a brother to me," he wrote. "He is one of the most honest people I know, and he cherishes his time as a Navy SEAL and continues to be one of our most positive and outspoken supporters. He never would have said that the SEALs 'deserve to lose a few.' Never. I believe Chris Kyle made up a fictional story about him, used it to promote his book, and in doing so has unfortunately damaged Jim's reputation in the SEAL teams."