James Eli Shiffer
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Mahendra Trivedi claims in court records to possess an extraordinary gift.

Trivedi says that through energy transmitted from his body, he can cure cancer, restore the health of livestock and grow better crops, according to records filed in Ramsey County District Court. The website for his Nevada-based organization claims Trivedi, also known as Guruji, has helped nearly 150,000 people through unique abilities that are backed up by hard science.

According to a lawsuit, the success of the "Trivedi Effect" has been torpedoed by online smears from a guy in St. Paul named Dennis Lang.

Four years ago, Lang started tapping out blog posts raising questions about Trivedi's assertions and behavior. Now he's defending himself against a defamation lawsuit filed by Trivedi that has taken some remarkable turns.

In 2013, an Arizona judge approved a staggering $59 million judgment against Lang, who didn't show up to contest the lawsuit. Last year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals tossed the judgment, saying that an Arizona court had no jurisdiction over Lang.

Then Trivedi refiled his lawsuit in Minnesota. Last month, Ramsey County District Judge Robert Awsumb refused to dismiss the suit and told Lang to start handing over documents to Trivedi in advance of trial.

Though he found it "terrifying" to be sued at first, Lang is more sanguine now.

"Honestly, this has been such a fascinating experience for me," Lang said. "What I've learned is the extent to which someone will go to silence a community."

Trivedi did not respond to a request for comment left with his Henderson, Nev., headquarters. His attorney declined to comment.

But in an affidavit filed in court in March, Trivedi said Lang had published "terrible, false statements about me" that had hurt his business and scared away business associates and supporters, including Deepak Chopra, the world-famous self-help and meditation maven.

Trivedi and Lang have never met or spoken, though Lang said he tried to get an interview once. Lang said he has always pursued his inquiries with skepticism, not malice.

"I felt I was telling what was truthful about him," he said.

Lang said he was thinking of writing a magazine article when he posted a comment in March 2011 on the Deepak Chopra blog, asking anyone who had direct contact with Trivedi to contact him. He said a number of former employees and others responded, including some who told stories "that were nothing short of harrowing," according to an affidavit he filed in February.

One of those people created a blog, PurQi.com, which became a forum for critical posts about Trivedi. Among other accusations, Lang's postings questioned the scientific basis of the "Trivedi Effect," called Trivedi a "sham" and reported allegations of sexual misconduct and immigration violations, according to the lawsuit.

In a March 3 affidavit filed in court, Trivedi strongly denied what Lang wrote. "It would be completely antithetical to my nature to try to manipulate, intimidate, harm or control anyone," Trivedi said in his affidavit.

Lang said he was merely reporting what he was told, and what he was able to check out. He also contacted the FBI and provided some information about Trivedi. Soon, he said, he started hearing about lawsuits being filed against other critics. Still, it came as a shock to get served with legal papers.

He was reassured by his attorney, Mark Anfinson, that Arizona had no authority over him. (Anfinson is also general counsel for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, of which the Star Tribune is a member).

Trivedi had also filed a defamation suit against a Pennsylvania researcher who conducted laboratory experiments that she claimed found no effect from his "energy transmissions," according to federal court records.

The PurQi.com blog has disappeared. Lang said he hasn't posted anything about Trivedi for a year, although he has a magazine article about his experience that he's pitching, so far without success. He isn't intimidated by the suit. "I just could not succumb."

Lang said he wonders why Trivedi hasn't taken a different approach.

"Why doesn't he just focus his thoughts on his critics and stop them?"

Contact James Eli Shiffer at james.shiffer@startribune.com or 612-673-4116. Read his blog at startribune.com/fulldisclosure.