Mike Lindell’s chaotic rise threatened by new adversity

Records reveal tumultuous relationships

By: - January 22, 2021 3:42 pm

Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, speaking at a campaign rally held by U.S. President Donald Trump at the Target Center on Oct. 10, 2019 in Minneapolis. Mike Lindell says the FBI seized his cell phone at a Mankato Hardee’s on Tuesday. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

Just a few months ago, Mike Lindell was flying high. The pillow mogul had become a key surrogate for President Donald Trump and won legions of fans — and customers — with his ubiquitous presence on Fox News. His redemption story from cocaine to riches and Jesus was a good one as he publicly mulled a run for governor, and the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party had already endorsed him.

The intervening months have been less kind.  

He became a point man for Trump’s effort to overturn the election results, even as the MAGA movement took a violent turn, overrunning and ransacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Lindell accused left-wing activists of a setup, despite a bevy of video evidence debunking the claim. 

His notes of a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office indicate Lindell pushed a hard line, calling for military force to smite Trump’s enemies and keep him in power. There’s at least some indication he’s bought into the QAnon conspiracy that claims Trump is leading a fight against a cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles in the “Deep State” and Democratic Party; the MyPillow website recently briefly offered discounts to customers who entered the code “QAnon.” 

Major retail outlets like Bed Bath & Beyond and Lowe’s promptly dropped his pillow line from their stores after his Oval Office appearance.  

And, he confronts the strong possibility of a major lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems. He’s accused the election technology company, without evidence, of fixing the election results. Dominion has already sued former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for more than $1 billion after she made some of the same accusations. 

The turbulence of the past few months are a microcosm of Lindell’s life story, as recounted in his 325-page memoir, as well as court documents and interviews. He’s won and lost fortunes gambling, started multiple businesses that went bust, declared bankruptcy, spent years strung out on cocaine, crack and booze and hit the big one with a foam-filled pillow he invented in his garage. 

Like many salesmen, including his hero Trump, Lindell is best at selling himself. Through the memoir and countless media appearances, he’s created a rich mythology. 

Less well known are allegations of domestic violence by an ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend, who reported he kicked her so hard in the back that she broke a rib. The allegations, which Lindell claims are not true, can be found in police reports and court documents, including an order for protection granted against Lindell that the ex-girlfriend later voluntarily dismissed in hopes of reconciliation. 

Lindell, surely aware of Americans’ love of redemption stories, recounts details of his roustabout years in his 2019 autobiography, “What are the Odds?”

He burglarized a St. Peter gas station, racked up multiple DUIs, was pinched for not paying a debt to a Las Vegas casino. After his first wife of 20 years left him, he abandoned his two teenage sons in the family home, which was in foreclosure, to move in with his crack-addicted girlfriend. 

Mike Lindell waits for a meeting with then-President Donald Trump outside the West Wing of the White House on Jan. 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Mostly unremarked upon in the book, however: Two women’s sworn allegations of physical and verbal abuse in 2007-2008 and 2013.

During their divorce, his second wife accused him in an affidavit of trying to run her over and nearly hitting her 2-year-old granddaughter. And, in a request for an order for protection, an ex-girlfriend accused Lindell of repeatedly beating her. 

Lindell denied the allegations in a voicemail, calling the story a “hit job” and saying “There was never anything with either one of my ex-wives so your facts are wrong there.” 

He threatened a lawsuit. “So you better make sure you have your facts right before you try and defame something from the past. I’m very open about my past,” he said. 

He did not address his ex-girlfriend’s allegation in the voicemail. 

He has also denied his ex-wife’s allegations in an affidavit. In his book and police reports, he’s denied the ex-girlfriend’s allegations.

He’s never been prosecuted for or convicted of spousal abuse.  

Records: A tumultuous relationship leads to an order for protection

Lindell’s first marriage to Karen Dickey lasted 20 years before they divorced in 2007. 

In his book, Lindell writes that in early 2008, his live-in-girlfriend called the police on him — “what for, I didn’t know” — and a warrant for his arrest was issued. (The Reformer is not naming the woman, who has since died, to protect her family’s privacy.)

He writes that he fled to his drug dealer’s place in Minneapolis and did cocaine while staying awake for 14 days, before three of his dealers staged an intervention.

When he returned to Carver, he was arrested, but writes that he called the girlfriend and pleaded with her to “Please go down to the courthouse and withdraw these false charges,” which she agreed to do. He claims he was “found innocent” days later, but the Reformer found no record of any prosecution or proceeding arising from these events.

Court documents provide more detail: In her request for an order for protection in January 2008, she said Lindell grabbed her around the neck and threw her on the ground and kicked and hit her until she called the police, but he wasn’t arrested. She alleged several incidents of abuse led up to her decision to request the protection order: 

  • On a trip to Laughlin, Nevada, in late 2007, Lindell kicked her so hard in the back that her ribs cracked. The reason? She refused to give him her money after he blew $3,000 gambling.
  • She said she’d called the cops in August 2007 after a fight in which Lindell punched her in the face, but, “Mike lied to them and I was arrested.” After that, his verbal and physical abuse got progressively worse, she said. (The woman had a 2007 misdemeanor domestic assault conviction on her record at the time of her 2018 death at the age of 50.)
  • She said Lindell wouldn’t let her in the house to get her insulin and dog when she came home one morning. After she got in, Lindell beat and kicked her in the face and body. As she ran for the door, he picked up a wooden dowel and hit her on the leg, kicking and punching her dog as they ran out the door, she alleged.

An emergency one-year order for protection was granted, but a few months later, she asked that the order be dismissed because she and Lindell “want to seek counseling together.”

Carver County Sheriff’s records show additional calls months later to settle domestic disputes between Lindell and the woman. Records from the Carver County Sheriff’s Office show the two had multiple domestic situations in August 2008, one of which resulted in a warrant for Lindell’s arrest. “They are calling on each other trying to get the other person in trouble,” Deputy Gary Stahlke wrote in his incident report.

Weeks later, Lindell called to report the woman was throwing things at him and told the deputy she had multiple personality disorder.

Others living in the house told the deputy the two fought regularly.

“I myself was just out at that residence about three weeks ago on the same type of deal where Mike Lindell was arrested for domestic assault with (redacted) he left the residence and a warrant was put out for his arrest at that time,” Stahlke wrote in his incident report.

In his book, Lindell writes that he hired the woman to work at MyPillow after they both got sober. 

Second wife: ‘I am scared of Mike’ 

Lindell’s second marriage only lasted weeks.

Lindell sought to annul the marriage, and was accused of verbal and physical abuse by his second wife, Dallas Yocum, when she responded in a 2013 affidavit.

They became acquainted years earlier on his gambling trips to Laughlin, where she worked at the Riverside Casino. In the summer of 2011, he offered Yocum a job as executive assistant at MyPillow, Yocum wrote in the affidavit.

“Mike had always told me that he talks to God in his dreams and that God told him I was supposed to work for My Pillow, Inc.,” she wrote.

He promised to keep it professional, but she wrote that when she first moved to Minnesota, he urged her to stay at his sister’s house, where he was living, and when they traveled for work, “He insisted that I sleep in a bed with him” even though they were not romantically involved.

Lindell responded in his own affidavit that the company didn’t have the money to book a second room for her, and the hotel didn’t have any rooms with two beds. 

Yocum said Lindell could also be very cruel and abusive to his employees, often firing employees when angry.

From employee to wife

Nearly a year later, Lindell broke up with a fiancée and began dating Yocum; within weeks they were engaged. A month later, in February 2013, he bought a house on Lone Cedar Circle in Chaska for $965,000, borrowing about $647,000 from MyPillow and $300,000 from his friend who was the company’s then-chief marketing officer, according to his affidavit.

Lindell and Yocum married on June 8, 2013 in an elaborate wedding. Their relationship deteriorated quickly, Yocum said.

Two days after the wedding, Yocum told him her 2-year-old granddaughter would be living with them for at least a month, possibly for life, according to Lindell’s affidavit. 

They fought about the arrangement. Yocum claimed in her affidavit that Lindell became upset and “almost hit my granddaughter.” She said Lindell chased them out of the lakefront house and she stayed in a hotel for a week afterward.

In his sworn response to Yocum’s affidavit, Lindell said her allegations contained “many exaggerations and outright fabrications.”

“Dallas is a bitter woman whose main objective has been to manipulate me into showering her with gifts and cash,” he wrote in his affidavit. 

Lindell also denied her allegations that he could be abusive to his employees, but the following year a profanity-laced YouTube clip surfaced of him berating workers. And he acknowledges in his book, “Though free from my addictions, I still had fits of rage and often took my deep-seated anger out on people who didn’t deserve it.”

Yocum accused Lindell of further abuse after the separation. 

“Since we have been separated, Mike has tried to run me over with his truck,” Yocum wrote in her affidavit. “While staying at my brother’s house, I woke up to find him standing over me, watching me sleep. I am scared of Mike.”

Lindell’s affidavit denied her allegations.

Near death experiences made him feel invincible

Lindell’s book recounts daredevil stunts, harrowing drug addiction and drunken escapades like totaling his Ford Mustang and wrapping his stepfather’s pickup around a tree.  

He claims 14 near-death experiences made him feel invincible.

“I fell into a lake and was trapped under a sheet of ice,” he wrote. “I was nearly electrocuted by a bolt of power so massive that it shut down half the town. I bought a motorcycle and wrecked it twice — the second time on the way to a skydiving lesson, during which I smashed into the ground at 60 miles per hour because my parachute didn’t fully open.”

Mike Lindell cheers as then-President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a 2018 campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

At various times, he seems to have eluded creditors. He and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 2004, reporting about $26,000 in assets and $147,000 in debts, including $2,700 in state taxes, over $1,000 to the Flamingo Laughlin in Nevada and over $1,500 to the Grand Casino in Tampa, Florida.

It was a complex bankruptcy that led to years of litigation. Lindell says in his memoir that he declared his “fake bankruptcy” to avoid a ruinous lawsuit that alleged the bar he owned at the time over-served two people before they crashed a snowmobile and were injured. 

Lindell says in his book he bought a bar called Schmitty’s in 1990 with the winnings from a football bet. Schmitty’s takes a starring role in Lindell’s memoir and is portrayed as a south metro “Cheers.”

“I was selling alcohol, but I wasn’t selling alcohol, if you know what I mean. I was selling fun. Family. Belonging. Maybe that was because, beginning in childhood, I never felt like I belonged.”

When Lindell was 7, his mom abruptly left his father and moved the kids from a house by a lake to a Chaska trailer park. (Lindell still owns a home in an upscale, hilly Chaska neighborhood, although it’s not clear how much time he spends there versus Palm Beach, Florida, which the New York Times recently reported is where he is now based.)

By his senior year of high school, Lindell was deep into sports betting, following in his card-dealing grandfather’s footsteps.

He briefly attended the University of Minnesota before dropping out and buying a van and driving to California. He stopped in Las Vegas.

“When we walked through the doors and I saw the lights flashing, levers cranking, and coins clinking, I felt like I had just entered a giant money factory,” he wrote. “From that first breath of stale cigarette smoke and Aqua Net, I was in love.”

He blew all his money in the casino while his friend slept in the van, then noticed his friend had five silver dollars on the van’s dash. Lindell promptly bet them on craps and won $2,600. The euphoria of winning, he wrote, fueled his gambling addiction for the next 34 years.

After a stint in rehab in 1986, Lindell went into the concession business with Lee Tischleder, who still lives in Carver. Tischleder hasn’t read Lindell’s book but confirmed in an interview that he borrowed money to start the Sunshine Concessions “lunch wagons” with Lindell.

“I have no time for the man,” he said of Lindell. 

All of their investments were done in Tischleder’s name, he said, because of Lindell’s record. 

“It got to a point where he and his wife were drawing $20 an hour and we weren’t getting a dime,” he said. “He could sell sand to an Arab, but somehow he would always lose it all between the drugs and the gambling.”

Tischleder said the last time he saw Lindell was in the Carver bank, where Lindell was looking to borrow money for a bigger place. 

“Even at the bank they were just rolling their eyes going ‘This guy is f***in’ crazy.’ But you know what? He made it work.”

Along with the gonzo escapades and failures, divine premonitions and cosmic coincidences litter the book. Lindell hints that God repeatedly spared him for a reason, with plans to eventually give him a grand platform. 

For years, his platform was an infomercial for his famous pillow.  

Once Lindell got sober in 2009, he woke up from what he called a “cultural coma.”

“Even up to 2014, I had no idea of the difference between a Republican and a Democrat, or a liberal and a conservative,” he writes in his book.

He went from a political zero to conservative hero in six years.

A few weeks before Trump announced his candidacy for president, Lindell said he had a “very weird, very vivid dream” where he posed for a picture with Trump in an office.

Then he got invited to sit in Trump’s family section at the Republican National Convention, and later met the future president at Trump Tower in August 2016. They posed for a picture in the very office he’d dreamt about, he writes.

Lindell was hooked on Trump. 

Photo courtesy of Mike Lindell.

He attended three presidential debates and the Trump election night watch party. After Trump won, Lindell popped up at everything from Rose Garden coronavirus briefings to manufacturing summits to 2020 campaign rallies.  

Lindell had been on FOX News hawking pillows — where he first got a huge sales bump for his U.S.-made product in 2014 — but now he was on the news for his political views. His conservative cred steadily rose and he started making noise about running for governor of Minnesota.

Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan tweeted her admiration: “Minnesota’s Honorary Chairman for the Trump Campaign @realMikeLindell is working tirelessly across the country to ensure we deliver @realDonaldTrump #FOURMOREYEARS and flip Minnesota in 43 days. It will happen. And then we are going to make him our next Governor.” 

Fighting to overturn results

After the election, Lindell joined Trump in trying to overturn the results, claiming Dominion Voting Systems was involved in fraud. There have been no facts put forward to support his claims, and Dominion is threatening to sue him.

He donated $50,000 to The Fight Back Foundation Inc., set up by pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood to help fund election fraud litigation and post bail for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Illinois boy charged with fatally shooting two men and wounding another during protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Lindell also helped finance and spoke at “March for Trump” events by Women for America First that crisscrossed the nation, making more than two dozen stops in a two-week tour that ended in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 14, according to Reuters.

That same group organized the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally that devolved into chaos at the Capitol. Lindell told Reuters his financial backing ended in mid-December, and he didn’t finance the Jan. 6 protest.

But he was at Trump’s rally before Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol. Afterward he posted a video on multiple social media sites saying the rioters may have been “plants.”

“I’m never letting the fraud go,” he told Reuters. 

Lindell continues to insist Trump won, saying Trump got more votes but the “algorithms broke” at 11:15 p.m. on election night. China and other countries manipulated the results, he claims.

Republican election officials and dozens of judges have declared the results valid; even the few irregularities found would not come close to changing the outcome. 

“Maybe the big win isn’t Donald Trump winning — being inaugurated on Jan. 20,” he said in a video interview on Jan. 7. “We don’t know, but I know that we are part of a great revival and the big win is bringing everybody to Jesus.” 

Lindell claims God has talked to him all his life, guiding his path to redemption. 

With vendors fleeing, Trump uninterested in his coup ideas and social media mocking him, Lindell may need divine assistance, again.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.