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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Ventura wins defamation lawsuit

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ST. PAUL  --  Former Governor Jesse Ventura has won his defamation lawsuit against the estate of slain "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle. 

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After nearly a week of deliberations, a jury awarded Ventura $1.8 million for defamation and damages.  However, today's verdict was not unanimous.  Lawyers agreed to waive the unanimous verdict rule, which is allowed by federal law.  Eight jurors sided with Ventura, two did not.  Ventura alleges that the late author Chris Kyle fabricated the story in his book "American Sniper" that Ventura made derogatory remarks about Navy SEALS that ended in a fight in a California bar.  Ventura was not in the courtroom when today's verdict was read, nor was Kyle's widow, Taya.

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A chase Monday afternoon in northern Minnesota that ended in the suspect's death -- but authorities say none of the officers fired their guns.  It started when a state trooper spotted a man wanted for fleeing authorities last week north of Bemidji.  The driver managed to elude the trooper but was spotted again in Cass County. The chase resumed, hitting speeds over 100 miles an hour on U.S. Highway 2 and ended back in Bemidji where the man's car was disabled by spike strips. The driver refused commands to exit the car and then officers heard a gunshot and found the man dead.  An autopsy is being conducted by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner.

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A lawsuit challenging the DNR on its fishing rules for Mille Lacs Lake is moving forward.  Save Mille Lacs Sportfishing (SMLSF) and Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM) filed suit.  Attorney Eric Kaardal  says an 18,700 page court-ordered response shows the DNR ignored the outdoor heritage preservation amendment in the state constitution.  Kaardal says the agency caused walleye counts to drop when it's required to preserve the walleye heritage on Mille Lacs Lake.  DNR officials weren't immediately available to comment.

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The state Human Services Department has identified an error in a letter sent to nearly nine-thousand MinnesotaCare clients.  Deputy Commissioner Charles Johnson says the July 17th notice warned subscribers they faced a four-month insurance coverage lockout if they failed to renew their policy by this Thursday -- but Johnson says that's not accurate.  He says that policy existed in the past but is not in place anymore.  Johnson says if you don't get your renewal application in by the end of this month, get it in as soon as you can to be eligible for September 1st coverage.

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     The Obama Administration this morning recognized a Minnesota couple as one of 15 "Champions of Change" for agriculture, who are doing "extraordinary things" to get things ready for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.  Ryan and Tiffany Batalden are fifth-generation beginning farmers in Cottonwood County.  They grow certified organic corn, oilseed and small grains plus raise a small number of livestock, and Ryan says that diversity is his farm's great strength.  He says they're trying to grow three, four or five different crops every year instead of two -- which Batalden says spreads out the work load and also spreads out the risk.  The couple also runs a popcorn business dubbed "Patriot Pops." 

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Mankato pet lovers turned out to protest a new city ordinance that would limit the number of cats or dogs in any residence to three.  Many said it's not the number of pets that should be the focus, but rather the actions of pet owners.  Brent Rosso told the city council he read the ordinance and there are other parts that don't make sense, either -- like a section that says any animal other than a cat or dog is illegal  "Decriminalize goldfish and hamsters," he told councilmembers.  The Mankato City Council did not vote on the proposed new ordinance, and instead will take it back into work sessions to come up with a different plan.

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The man accused of shooting a teenage girl multiple times in Beltrami County was in court Monday.  40-year-old Chad Pickering is charged with attempted first-degree murder after investigators say he shot a 17-year-old girl a week ago as she stood on the deck of her home in Eckles Township.  Court documents say Pickering first denied shooting the teenager, but later admitted to firing at her several times because he felt threatened after an earlier confrontation in which the victim accused him of trespassing.  Beltrami County Attorney Timothy Faver says Monday's hearing was Pickering's first with his court-appointed attorney.  He says at an omnibus hearing set for August 18th, Pickering's lawyer will have an opportunity to challenge witness statements and other evidence.  Faver expects a long court battle and predicts the trial will be rescheduled numerous times.

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The investigation continues into a fatal shooting that occurred during a home invasion early Saturday morning in Koochiching County.  The Sheriff's Office says a man asking for help at a house in Ray went inside after the door was opened and assaulted the female homeowner.  The woman's son shot the man who later died at Rainy Lake Medical Center.  The Sheriff's Office says more details will be released after an autopsy and positive identification is made.  Ray is southeast of International Falls. 

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There were at least two motorcycle accidents in Minnesota on Sunday.  The State Patrol says 27-year-old Mistee Marsolek was driving an SUV on Highway 14 in Olmsted County when she rear-ended another vehicle last (Sun) night, pushing it into the path of a motorcycle traveling the opposite direction.  45-year-old Gregory Maumler of Hammond was thrown from the bike and into the ditch.  Both he and Marsolek were hospitalized but are expected to recover.  The driver of the other car involved was not hurt.  And in Rushford, troopers say a biker was performing a "burnout stunt" on Highway 43 when he lost control and crashed.  23-year-old Jordan Becker of Caledonia was taken to the hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

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A new study finds visitors to America's national parks, recreational areas and monuments contributed $26.5 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013, and in Minnesota the economic impact topped $50-million.  Jeffrey Olson with the National Park Service says rural towns near the parks see the greatest benefit.  Olson says last year there were nearly 660,000 visits to national parks in Minnesota, which supported 550 jobs in the state.  In addition to Voyageurs National Park, there are national monuments in Grand Portage and Pipestone, the Mississippi River National Recreation area in the Twin Cities as well as the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and the National Scenic Trail that runs through Minnesota and six other states from New York to North Dakota. 

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