Infomercial king Kevin Trudeau held in contempt of court

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Kevin Trudeau, the star of late night long-form TV ads promoting his own books filled with questionable claims, will be the first one to tell you of his contempt for the government and courts that have tried to rein him in.

The normally cocky and unapologetic pitchman with a large and loyal following left U.S. District Court in Chicago with his tail between his legs after being held in criminal contempt of court. Trudeau tapped into the raw energy of those who cling to his words like the gospel and asked them to email notes of support for him to Judge Robert Gettleman. The judge got the message as hundreds upon hundreds of emails filled his inbox -- still pouring in even as Trudeau stepped into the courtroom.

The unhappy judge ordered Trudeau to surrender his passport, not leave northern Illinois without permission from him and to post $50,000 bail pending a hearing next week on penalties he could face, including jail time.

"Unlike Mr. Trudeau, I do not wish to act hastily or improvidently," the judge was quoted as saying. "I want to think about what an appropriate sanction would be."

Trudeau was in court to finish up a case that had been brought against him by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC won a $37 million judgment against Trudeau that he appealed. The judgment was vacated in August and sent back to the district court to be heard again.

On a normal day, Trudeau would boast of his battle with authority and use the decision made against him as a tool to further amp up his followers. Indeed, Trudeau has boasted of being held in contempt. But not this time. He posted a message on his web site apologizing for asking them to email the judge and urging them to stop.

"Yesterday, as you know I asked you to communicate with Judge Gettleman of the Northern District Court of Illinois. That was a mistake. It was wrong to make that request," Trudeau wrote. "Please do not under any circumstances communicate with the court or Judge Gettleman. I apologize for this mistake."

Still, despite the contrition, there are hints that we haven't heard the last from Trudeau on the subject.

"I cannot comment at this time. But have lots to say and will address it on my radio show Tuesday," Trudeau told WalletPop in an email this morning.

He was due back in court to comply with the judge's order to post the bail and surrender his passport.

In the redo of the penalty phase of the FTC's case against him over his book The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About, Trudeau faces a fine even larger than the $37 million one previously lodged against him. He says he doesn't care.

"I'm never going to pay it," he said in an earlier interview with WalletPop.

Trudeau is a convicted felon. He served two years in prison after being convicted of credit card fraud and larceny in the early 1990's for charging up his customers' credit cards and posing as someone else to cash worthless checks.

He is the only person to ever be banned from doing infomercials for life. He is able to remain on TV -- and can be seen virtually any night if you stay up late enough -- because he can't be prevented from promoting his own books. The FTC, however, has said it would pursue Trudeau if he makes false claims about what's in his books and what they can do.

Trudeau has sold millions of books on all sorts of subjects from weight loss to getting "free money" to improving memory.

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