CHICAGO – Jurors deliberated for less than an hour Tuesday before finding Kevin Trudeau guilty of criminal contempt in weeklong trial during which prosecutors accused the TV pitchman of lying in infomercials to boost sales of his diet book.
In a rare move, immediately after the verdict Judge Ronald Guzman revoked the 50-year-old’s bail and ordered marshals to take him into custody. White-collar defendants are typically allowed to remain free as they await sentencing.
As the federal judge read out the verdict to a crowded courtroom in Chicago earlier Tuesday, Trudeau sat on the edge of his seat – but otherwise showed little emotion. One of his supporters wept as she left the courtroom minutes later.
Trudeau, who lives in Oak Brook, theoretically could be sentenced to life behind bars for the criminal contempt conviction – though he’s likely to receive a far less severe sentence. No sentencing date was set Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Trudeau violated a federal judge’s 2004 order barring him from making false claims about his book “The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About,” which topped best-seller lists.
During closing arguments Tuesday morning, prosecutor Marc Krickbaum accused Trudeau of lying repeatedly about the benefits of the book in his infomercials, which were ubiquitous on late-night television.
“He made the book sound way better than it actually was,” Krickbaum told jurors. “If he told the truth, that book wasn’t going to sell nearly as well than if he lied.”
But in his closing, defense lawyer Thomas Kirsch said prosecutors had failed to prove their case, noting they called just two witnesses. He said prosecutors also hadn’t shown that any possible misstatements by Trudeau were intentional.
The core dispute revolved around dramatic claims in Trudeau’s TV infomercials about the book, including that people who followed the diet need not exercise and could eventually eat anything they wanted without gaining weight.
The book describes a diet of 500 calories a day and the use of prescription hormones. The truth of the claims in the book itself weren’t at issue – only the veracity of claims Trudeau made on TV as he sought to persuade viewers to purchase the book.
In a related civil case, Trudeau has already been ordered to pay a $37 million judgment. The federal judge in that case said he was not convinced by Trudeau’s insistence that he was broke and couldn’t pay. Federal officials said they believe Trudeau is hiding money in secret foreign bank accounts.
Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm