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AP Exclusive: 'Three Cups' author was overwhelmed

Associated Press Published: May 1, 2012

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson says the dismissal of a civil lawsuit that accused him of fabricating book passages to make money for himself and his charity confirms his faith in the U.S. justice system.

Mortenson told The Associated Press in an email Monday that he has been overwhelmed at times dealing with the lawsuit, a Montana investigation into the Central Asia Institute and surgery to repair a small hole in his heart.

"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 said.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon rejected the civil lawsuit Monday, dismissing claims that Mortenson, his publisher, his co-author and his charity conspired to make Mortenson into a false hero to sell books and raise money for the charity. Haddon called the claims overly broad, flimsy and speculative.

The ruling is good news for Mortenson and his charity after Montana's attorney general earlier in April announced a $1 million agreement to settle claims that Mortenson mismanaged the institute and misspent its funds. The agreement removes Mortenson from any financial oversight and overhauls the charity's structure, but it does not address the books' contents.

Mortenson, who was traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday, declined a telephone interview. He said in his email, his first public statement in more than a year, that the judge's ruling "upholds and confirms my belief and faith that our American legal and judicial system is honorable and fair."

The Central Asia Institute, which he co-founded in 1996 to build schools in Central Asia, "is stronger than ever, and we will continue to work hard to serve our mission, uphold transparency and instill good governance," he said.

The lawsuit by four people who bought Mortenson's books claimed they bought the books because they were labeled as nonfiction accounts of how Mortenson came to build schools in Central Asia. Their lawsuit alleged fraud, deceit, racketeering and breach of contract against Mortenson, publisher Penguin Group (USA), co-author David Oliver Relin and the Central Asia Institute.

They had asked Haddon to order the defendants account for all the money collected from Mortenson's book sales, refund readers who come forward and send the rest of the cash to a humanitarian organization to be decided by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs' attorneys in Montana and Chicago did not return messages for comment.

Haddon did not address allegations of fabrications in the book, but wrote that the plaintiffs can't simply rely on general allegations of lies in making a fraud claim.

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