By Adam Kirby
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Pitchman Kevin Trudeau sold a "dream" in infomercials promising his book contained easier weight loss cures than it delivered, prosecutors said on Tuesday in an opening statement for his federal criminal contempt trial In Chicago.
Trudeau, 50, faces possible jail time if a jury convicts him. His attorneys said his conduct did not willfully violate a 2004 court order barring him from misrepresenting his books in infomercials.
Trudeau was jailed and released in September and October for failing to pay a nearly $38 million judgment for civil contempt in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission over his infomercials.
Prosecutors contend Trudeau knowingly violated the FTC agreement in marketing his book, "The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You To Know About" in infomercials made in 2006 and 2007 that aired about 32,000 times, according to court papers.
In his informercials, Trudeau told viewers the "cure" to obesity was not a diet and did not require exercise.
"That's the dream you will hear him selling," Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Krickbaum said. "But then you'll see the realities of what's in the book."
The book instructed readers to walk an hour each day and to limit caloric intake to 500 calories.
Trudeau's attorney, Thomas Kirsch, told jurors his client did not misrepresent the book's content or violate the agreement because everything said in the infomercials appeared in the book. Trudeau's statements were protected free speech and were not explicitly forbidden by the agreement, he said.
Kirsch said a firm that produced and distributed the infomercials reviewed the agreement before the programs were aired and would be at fault if the consent order were violated.
Trudeau, whose marketing business is based in Chicago, has battled federal regulators for years over his marketing of various products to combat AIDS, hair loss, memory loss and obesity in infomercials well-known to U.S. television viewers.
In a 2004 federal court settlement with the FTC, Trudeau agreed to pay $2 million and be banned from advertising products in infomercials. The agreement allowed infomercials for publications that did not refer to other products Trudeau was marketing and did not misrepresent the book's contents.
The FTC later argued that Trudeau's weight-loss book had inaccurate information and violated the agreement. In 2010, U.S. Judge Robert Gettleman ordered Trudeau to pay consumers nearly $38 million based on the books sold. Trudeau has repeatedly insisted he is broke and cannot pay the judgment.
(Reporting by Adam Kirby; Editing by David Bailey and David Gregorio)