Gentle Wind drops lawsuit against couple

Portland Press Herald/November 10, 2006
By Gregory D. Kesich

The Gentle Wind Project has agreed to drop a defamation lawsuit against two former members who wrote articles comparing the self-styled spiritual healing group to a "mind control cult."

Under the agreement, Gentle Wind will drop its claims against Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey, a married couple from Blue Hill, and pay them an undisclosed amount of money to reimburse them for donations they made to the organization during their 17 years of membership.

The agreement ends more than three years of litigation that began when Bergin and Garvey published online accounts of their years with the group, which they said dominated every aspect of their lives.

Garvey wrote that she got involved in bizarre sexual rituals after being told they were necessary to produce the "healing instruments" that Gentle Wind sold.

Bergin wrote that his research of cults showed many similarities between those groups and the Kittery-based organization.

Gentle Wind was run by John "Tubby" Miller, who claimed that he could communicate with the "spirit world."

Miller said he received designs for "healing instruments" that resembled cards and hockey pucks, and could cure physical and emotional damage caused by illnesses ranging from alcoholism to paralysis.

The Miller family sued the couple and the operators of Internet sites that published their work, claiming that the bad publicity had damaged their ability to raise money.

The case was thrown out of federal court last year, but the Millers filed the lawsuit again, in state court in York County.

While the case was pending, however, the Maine Attorney General's Office sued Gentle Wind for false claims and fraud.

Gentle Wind's officers agreed to a settlement with the state in August.

They agreed to put all of the organization's assets in the hands of a receiver who would authorize payments to former customers of the group.

Lawyers from the Portland firm Verrill Dana dropped their representation of the Millers, claiming they had not been paid. The Millers could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Bergin and Garvey released a written statement celebrating the settlement.

"We had a right to tell our stories of 17 years as followers of the Gentle Wind Project," they wrote. "(Those rights) are all too often threatened when an individual or organization with deep pockets can use the civil legal process to silence whistle blowers."

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