Criminal trial begins for infomercial king Kevin Trudeau
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter November 5, 2013 5:36PM
Kevin Trudeau talks to reporters while leaving the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago on Oct. 28, 2013. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 7, 2013 6:32AM
Using a two-week federal trial to test the truthfulness of an infomercial may sound a little like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
But pitchman Kevin Trudeau hopes his lawyers can convince a jury that the TV spots for his weight loss book were just that: truthful.
If they can’t, the 50-year-old Oak Brook man faces a potential life sentence.
After years of denying he lied when he called his stringent diet plan “easy” — and being bounced in and out of jail for civil contempt of court for failing to pay a cent of a $38 million fine — the stakes dramatically increased for Trudeau on Tuesday afternoon when his long-awaited trial for criminal contempt of court finally began.
At issue is whether the silver-tongued convicted fraudster violated a 2004 court order banning him from making false claims in three infomercials for his best-selling book, “The Weight-Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”
Making his own 30-minute pitch for a conviction Tuesday, prosecutor Marc Krickbaum said during his opening statement that Trudeau “lied — he chose to make his book sound way better than it was, and he did that for one reason: to sell more books.”
Though Trudeau claimed in the infomercials that his “cure” wasn’t a diet and that it required no supplements or exercise, the book demands a 500-calorie-a-day-limit, daily injections of prescription hormones and long, daily walks, Krickbaum said.
He noted that the trial was not about whether Trudeau’s plan works or not, sarcastically acknowledging, “I’ll let you in on a secret — if you only eat 500 calories a day, you will lose weight.”
But defending Trudeau, attorney Thomas Kirsch said the claims Trudeau made in the ads were legitimate “statements of opinion” that were repeated in the book.
He accused the government of confusing required parts of Trudeau’s plan with optional steps, and said the ads included disclaimers and a money-back guarantee, agreeing that whether the plan worked was irrelevant.
“In America, we can write whatever we want in a book,” he said, adding, “if [Trudeau] wanted to write a book saying the moon was made of cheese, he could do that.”
Jurors are expected to watch the infomercials and be read excerpts from the book when prosecutors begin presenting evidence Wednesday.