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Pitchman fights to avoid jail for egging on supporters to spam judge

Virtual contempt case tests law

Controversial alternative medicine advocate Kevin Trudeau is fighting to stay out of jail after encouraging his supporters to spam a judge.

Trudeau is embroiled in a long-running legal argument with US consumer watchdog the Federal Trade Commission over disputed claims the drugs and treatments that Trudeau pushes offer relief for everything from hair loss to obesity. The FTC launched an ongoing action in 2007 arguing that Trudeau is in violation of a 2004 order banning him from making misleading informercials.

In February Trudeau encouraged his supporters to send Judge Robert W Gettleman, who was overseeing the case, with email in support of his position.

Judge Gettleman was swamped with spam email as a result, some of which were taken as potentially threatening. Trudeau responded by withdrawing the misguided advice and apologising. This apology cut little ice with the judge, who held that Trudeau had acted in contempt of court and sentenced him to 30 days behind bars and a fine.

An appeal court hearing in Illinois last week heard arguments about whether criminal contempt of court can occur outside of the court's physical boundaries and whether summary judgement could be imposed in the case. Audio recording can be found in a blog entry on Trudeau's site here.

More background on the case can be found in a blog entry by Sophos here. ®

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