CHICAGO Nov 12 A federal jury found pitchman
Kevin Trudeau guilty of criminal contempt on Tuesday for
exaggerating the contents of his weight-loss book in
infomercials, and he was taken into custody, prosecutors said.
Jurors took less than an hour to find Trudeau, 50, guilty of
violating a 2004 federal court settlement with the Federal Trade
Commission that barred him from misrepresenting the contents of
his books in advertisements, said Randall Samborn, a spokesman
for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago.
Trudeau, who was jailed twice in recent months for civil
contempt by a different federal judge in Chicago, faces
potential prison time for the criminal contempt conviction in
the trial before U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman.
Prosecutors had argued Trudeau knowingly violated the 2004
agreement while marketing his book, "The Weight Loss Cure 'They'
Don't Want You To Know About," in infomercials made in 2006 and
2007 that aired about 32,000 times.
In part, Trudeau told viewers in the infomercials that the
"cure" to obesity was not a diet and did not require exercise,
but the book instructed readers to walk an hour each day and to
limit intake to 500 calories.
Trudeau's attorney, Thomas Kirsch, argued at trial that
Trudeau's conduct did not willfully violate the court order and
his statements in the infomercials were carefully couched as
opinions and thus were constitutionally protected free speech.
Kirsch told jurors his client did not misrepresent the
book's content or violate the agreement because everything said
in the infomercials also appeared in the book.
Trudeau, whose marketing business is based in Chicago, has
battled federal regulators for years over his marketing of
various products to combat AIDS, hair loss, memory loss and
obesity in infomercials that were ubiquitous on late-night
television in the United States.
In the 2004 federal court settlement with the FTC, Trudeau
agreed to pay $2 million and be banned from advertising products
in infomercials. The agreement allowed infomercials for
publications that did not refer to other products Trudeau was
marketing and did not misrepresent the book's contents.
The FTC later asserted that Trudeau's weight-loss book had
inaccurate information and violated the agreement. In 2010, U.S.
District Judge Robert Gettleman ordered Trudeau to pay consumers
nearly $38 million based on the books sold.
Gettleman ordered Trudeau jailed overnight in September and
for six days in October for failing to pay the nearly $38
million judgment, or to account fully for his assets. Trudeau
has insisted that he is broke and cannot pay the judgment.
(Reporting by Adam Kirby; Writing by Brendan O'Brien; Editing
by David Bailey and Ken Wills)