Kevin Trudeau, the slick, silver-tongued infomercial king and best-selling author amassed a fortune over years of persistent, late-night hawking.
This week, he made the wrong sales pitch.
Trudeau was found in criminal contempt of court Thursday and nearly had handcuffs slapped on him after he asked his supporters to email the federal judge overseeing a pending civil case brought against him by the Federal Trade Commission.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said he was flooded with hundreds of “harassing, threatening and interfering” emails, locking up the judge’s email system and shutting down his Blackberry for part of the day.
“This is direct contempt — that’s how I view it,” Gettleman said. “He interfered with the direct process of the court.”
Gettleman hauled Trudeau into court a day after he posted a message on his Web site with his appeal. Gettleman ordered Trudeau to turn over his passport, pay $50,000 bond and warned he could face future prison time.
Gettleman, on his own authority, can sentence Trudeau to up to six months in prison. In addition, the judge referred the matter and the emails to the U.S. Marshals Service, which investigates threats to judiciary.
“This is the first time we are addressing an email blast or something that’s disrupted the court’s email system,” said Acting U.S. Marshal John O’Malley.
Trudeau, who also hosts his own radio show and has served prison time for credit card fraud, appeared in court tanned and tieless, wearing a black mock turtleneck and navy blue suit coat.
Trudeau, who has a residence in Hinsdale, refused to talk after court, even remaining silent when twice asked his age. He’s 47.
After being called on the carpet by the judge, he sent a follow-up email to his supporters telling them:
“That was a mistake. It was wrong to make that request,” Trudeau said. “Please do not under any circumstances communicate with the court or Judge Gettleman.”
“I don’t have confidence in your client,” Gettleman told Trudeau’s lawyer. “I do insist that, if he is to avoid custody today, he post bond.”
The Federal Trade Commission has labeled Trudeau a fraud and got a court order in 2004 to curtail his business.
Trudeau has sold millions of books, in part with the pitch that the government is trying to keep him from telling dieters the truth with his “The Weight-Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About,” which has become a best-seller.
Gettleman previously has banned Trudeau from making infomercials for three years, fined him more than $5 million, then raised that fine to more than $37 million — the amount the FTC figured Trudeau made on the book via his infomercials. An appeals court said the ruling was too broad and sent it back to the judge. Gettleman was still weighing the matter when he was deluged with emails Wednesday.
Trudeau has pitched miracle health cures, also saying the government wants to keep the public from knowing about natural remedies.
In a recent on-air radio broadcast, Trudeau talks about wanting to land a TV show. If Fox gave him the chance, he said he’d be: “Bigger than O’Reilly. Bigger than Glenn Beck.”
Stephen Barrett, the creator of Quackwatch.org, has for years labeled Trudeau a fraud.
What led the late-night miracle-cure hawker to criminal contempt charges in Chicago:
* Kevin Trudeau's Shop America USA as well as Natural Cures Inc. are in Elk Grove Village.
* Trudeau has a home in Hinsdale.
* In 2008, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman banned Trudeau from infomercials for three years and ordered him to pay more than $5 million in profits from his book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About. It was the second contempt finding in four years. An appellate court said the ruling was too broad and sent it back to Gettleman, who was poised to revise his ruling in March.
* Gettleman has previously stated that "the infomercial[s] falsely and intentionally led thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of consumers to believe that the Weight Loss Book would describe an 'easy,' 'simple' protocol that, once 'finished' would allow the consumer to 'eat anything' he or she wants."
* Gettleman hit Trudeau with criminal contempt and threatened him with prison time after Trudeau urged supporters to flood Gettleman's e-mail in-box
“He struck me as somebody who (believes he) is omnipotent. That is, no one can touch him,” Barrett said. “That’s almost been the case.”