Grimes & Reese Legal Review: Chicago Jury Finds Kevin Trudeau Guilty of Criminal Contempt

Kevin Trudeau, who in 2010 was ordered by a federal judge to pay more than $37 million for violating a 2004 stipulated order by misrepresenting in infomercials the content of his book, “The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About,” was found guilty of criminal contempt for violating that order. The jury took less than an hour to reach its verdict, which was read in a Chicago courtroom Nov. 12.

Prosecutors argued Trudeau knowingly violated the order when he used infomercials to tout the book’s plan that would “cure” obesity without requiring a special diet or needing to exercise, even though the book called for limiting calories to 500 a day and required walking an hour a day.

The defense argued that there was no violation, since the statements made in the infomercials were presented as opinions, and thus were protected speech under the First Amendment. In addition, because nothing was said in the infomercials that did not appear in the book, the defense maintained that a Trudeau was not misrepresenting the content of the book.

This case is separate from the civil case brought by the FTC, although it is that case from which the criminal contempt charge stemmed. The FTC first sued Trudeau in 1998, charging him with making false and misleading claims in infomercials for products he claimed could cause significant weight loss, cure addictions to heroin, alcohol and cigarettes, and achieve a photographic memory. The FTC sued Trudeau when an inpatient treatment facility refuted to Trudeau’s claims.

A stipulated court order barring Trudeau from making false claims for products in the future also ordered him to pay $500,000 back to consumers and established a $500,000 performance bond to ensure compliance.

In 2003, the FTC charged that Trudeau violated the 1998 order by falsely claiming in infomercials that a product called Coral Calcium Supreme could cure cancer. A preliminary injunction ordered him to cease making such claims, but when Trudeau nonetheless continued, he was found in contempt.

In 2004, Trudeau agreed to an order that resolved the Coral Calcium matter and ordered to pay $2 million in consumer redress and banned from infomercials, except for informational publications such as books, provided that he “must not misrepresent the content.”

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