Lindell sues to recover cellphone seized by FBI agents

Mike Lindell
MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell speaks to reporters outside federal court in Washington, on June 24, 2021.
Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP 2021

MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell has sued the Department of Justice and the FBI, demanding the return of a cellphone agents seized from him outside a fast food restaurant in southern Minnesota last week, apparently as part of an investigation into an alleged scheme to breach voting system technology.

Lindell alleges in the complaint, filed Tuesday in federal court in Minnesota, that the confiscation of his iPhone violated his constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure and an attempt to chill his freedom of speech. Lindell, a prominent promoter of false claims that voting machines were manipulated to steal the 2020 presidential election, asked the court to order the return of his phone and to prohibit federal authorities from using any data they've accessed from it or from his cellular service provider.

FBI agents stopped Lindell at the drive-through window of a Hardee's restaurant in Mankato on Sept. 13, when Lindell says he was on his way home from duck hunting with a friend in Iowa. They came with a search warrant, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung on Sept. 7, that authorized them to seize his cellphone and data on it pertaining to Dominion Voting Systems, as well as to a Colorado county clerk and other alleged co-conspirators.

The complaint also says Lindell has been served with a grand jury subpoena dated Sept. 7 that seeks similar information to what the search warrant covered.

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The scope of the federal grand jury probe in Colorado isn’t known, but local authorities there have charged Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in what they've described as a “deceptive scheme, which was designed to influence public servants, breach security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people.” She has pleaded not guilty.

Peters has appeared at several events with Lindell over the past year, including his “cybersymposium” in August 2021 in South Dakota at which a digital copy of Mesa County’s election management system was distributed.

According to Lindell's complaint, the FBI agents boxed in his truck at the drive-through, then questioned him for 25 to 30 minutes about Dominion and Peters. It says the agents allowed Lindell to leave only after he handed over his phone.

Lindell says he needs the phone back because it's the main way he runs MyPillow and affiliated businesses. His complaint alleges the government obtained the warrant in bad faith, and without apprising the magistrate judge of Lindell's role in the Colorado case. He also alleges the government must have used his cellphone signals — or a tracking device on his truck — without a warrant, to find him at the Hardee's.

Lindell is already the subject of a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion in the District of Columbia that says Lindell falsely accused the company of rigging the 2020 presidential election. In a separate case, a federal judge in Minnesota on Monday said a defamation lawsuit against Lindell by a different voting machine company, Smartmatic, can go forward.