A panel of federal judges says the government didn't violate Mike Lindell's constitutional rights when FBI agents seized his phone last year in the drive-thru line at a Mankato Hardee's.
The judges, upholding a lower court ruling, said the agents had a warrant that explicitly authorized them to search and seize his cellphone as part of a federal investigation.
"Lindell's irritation as to where and how the government took possession of his cell phone does not give rise to a constitutional claim, let alone a showing of a callous disregard for his constitutional rights," read the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Friday.
Lindell, the CEO of Minnesota-based MyPillow, is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation into the security breach and publishing of forensic images of election software used in the 2020 election in Mesa County, Colo. Lindell has repeated the false claim that voting machines were rigged to illegally give more votes to President Joe Biden than former President Donald Trump.
In a Star Tribune interview after his cellphone was seized, Lindell likened the FBI's seizure of his cell phone to the "Gestapo in Nazi Germany."
After calling his lawyer, Lindell turned over his phone, but he quickly sued to block the review of its contents and have it returned to him immediately, arguing he uses it for day-to-day work running his businesses.
But in its ruling, the panel said that Lindell acknowledged in a sworn declaration that he backed up the phone five days before it was seized, meaning he had access to "the vast majority of information" it contained.
"While he has been deprived of possession of his phone, he has not been deprived access to the phone's contents, other than perhaps a limited slice of no more than five days' worth of information that he has neither detailed nor identified with any particularity as vital to his businesses," the ruling read.
However, the court said the government would need to provide justification for continuing to hold on to Lindell's phone, which they've had for more than a year.
"Absent sufficient justification, the government has no right to hold onto property that is not contraband indefinitely," the panel wrote.
No charges have been filed in this investigation, but Lindell is the subject of multiple lawsuits around his false claims of election fraud. He and MyPillow face a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voter Systems and Smartmatic. Lindell and MyPillow have also filed lawsuits against the voting machine companies.
A private arbitration panel has also ordered Lindell to pay a computer forensics expert $5 million after Lindell said he would pay that sum to anyone who could disprove data he claimed showed Chinese interference in the 2020 election. Lindell is countersuing in that case.
Staff writers Rochelle Olson and Ryan Faircloth contributed to this story.