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Email is Contemptible: Email Barrage Gets Pitchman 30 Days in the Clink

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 17, 2010 5:55 AM

Anyone who wants to complain about how overloaded their email inbox is, should check in with U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman before opening their mouth. According to ABC News, as a result of an action by a defendant in a case before him, Judge Gettleman received so many emails they crashed his court computer and shut down his blackberry. So he did what any reasonable person would want to do; brought the person responsible up on contempt charges which look likely to include jail time.

Judge Gettleman has been overseeing an ongoing case between the FTC and infomercial pitch-man and author, (the term is used loosely) Kevin Trudeau. Trudeau has written several books purporting to solve many of mankind's most pressing problems, such as hair loss and weight gain. In 2004, Trudeau was ordered by the court to stop using certain claims to promote his books. By 2007, Judge Gettleman held Trudeau in civil contempt for continuing to misrepresent facts in an ad for one of said books. The judge levied a $37.6 million dollar fine and, horrors, banned Trudeau from infomercials for 3 years. On appeal, the appellate court asked the judge to "recalculate the fine" and reconsider the ban. Otherwise, the contempt of court citation was allowed to stand.

(For a recap of Trudeau's oeuvre, as well as an example of a wonderfully entertaining legal opinion, take a gander at the appellate opinion from August of 2009.)

While the amount of the fine was being reconsidered by Judge Gettleman, Trudeau thought it might be helpful to the judge for his fans to email and tell him just how much Trudeau's work had meant to them. So he posted a notice on his website encouraging them to do just that. Hence the shut down of the judge's computers, and a required threat assessment by the U.S. Marshals, who supply security at federal courthouses.

As a result of this little stunt which amounted to harassment of a federal judge, Trudeau now faces a criminal contempt of court citation as well as the civil one still lurking due to his underlying litigation.

Yesterday, Trudeau received a 30 day jail sentence, which was put off for one day so that his lawyers may prepare an appeal. Trudeau had to post a $50,000 bond and surrender his passport.

Looks like this time, Trudeau pulled the go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not appear on TV card right out of the stack.

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