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Federal judge throws out civil suit against 'Three Cups of Tea' author Greg Mortenson

Mortenson said in his first public statement in over a year that he was 'subjected to false allegations, vicious name-calling and slander.'

By Husna Haq / May 1, 2012

Greg Mortenson (l.) has denied wrongdoing throughout investigations.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Department of Defense/AP

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After a year of investigations, lawsuits, and accusations, it seems “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson can finally breathe easy.

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A Montana federal judge dismissed a civil lawsuit Monday against the author, which charged Mortenson lied in his bestselling books to boost sales. The four individuals who brought the suit said they, and scores of others, were cheated out of about $15 each because the so-called nonfiction books were filled with fabrications.

The lawsuit, writes the Monitor’s Warren Richey, “sought to wage a nationwide class-action suit on behalf of millions of readers against Mr. Mortenson, his co-author, David Oliver Relin, his publisher, Penguin Group, and a nonprofit organization he set up to help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

US District Judge Sam Haddon threw out the suit and barred any attempts by the plaintiffs to refile.

“The imprecise, in part flimsy, and speculative nature of the claims and theories advanced underscore the necessary conclusion that further amendment [of the complaint] would be futile,” Judge Haddon said.

Breaking a yearlong silence, Mortenson responded in an email to the Associated Press in which he explained that he had been overwhelmed at times dealing with the lawsuit, investigation into the Central Asia Institute, and his health problems. The beleaguered author also said that the dismissal of the lawsuit confirms his faith that the U.S. justice system.

“At times, facing so much was overwhelming and devastating, however, my attorneys always offered steadfast encouragement to stay positive and keep the high ground, even when subjected to false allegations, vicious name-calling and slander,” Mortenson wrote in his first public statement in more than a year, according to the AP.

Mortenson, who was traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday, also said that the judge’s ruling “upholds and confirms my belief and faith that our American legal and judicial system is honorable and fair.”

About a month ago, the Montana attorney general also announced a $1 million agreement to settle claims that Mortenson mismanaged the Central Asia Institute and its funds, as reported earlier this April.

"I think ultimately it frees Greg up to be able to speak to the allegations," Anne Beyersdorfer, the charity's interim executive director, told the San Francisco Chronicle of Haddon's ruling. "He stands by his books."

Throughout the yearlong investigations, Mortenson has denied any wrongdoing (though he has acknowledged some of the events in "Three Cups of Tea" were compressed over different periods of time).

Now that the lawsuits appear to be resolved, we’re eager to hear Mortenson’s side of the story. We’re guessing many of his readers feel the same way.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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