A man has appeared in court appealing that he should not have been sentenced to 30 days in jail, after asking his fans and followers to deluge a federal judge with email.
Kevin Trudeau is a controversial book author, infomercial presenter, radio presenter and pusher of alleged alternative medicines. He is entangled in a long-running legal fight with the FTC, who claim that he has misrepresented the facts in adverts for his books which claim to offer natural cures for everything from poor memory to obesity and hair loss.
Earlier this year, he encouraged his admirers to email Judge Robert W Gettleman at the Northern District Court of Illinois, who was overseeing his case.
It turns out that this was less than wise – as Judge Gettleman’s computer and BlackBerry were swamped with emails, reportedly making them unusable.
Despite Trudeau posting an apology on his website, urging readers not to attempt further contact with the judge, the court held Trudeau in direct criminal contempt, claiming that by urging his followers to deluge the courthouse with email, he was guilty of harassment, and sentenced the salesman to 30 days in jail.
So far, Trudeau hasn’t had to spend any time in jail – and the appeal being held this week was hearing arguments about whether contempt of court can occur outside of the court’s physical presence. After all, the alleged contempt took place “virtually” on the internet.
If nothing else, this case should remind all of us to think carefully about the possible repercussions of requesting a helping hand from potentially thousands of online followers.