Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station
SD Governor Kristi Noem with Pillow Guy Mike Lindell
Mike Lindell consulted with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to hold his three-day cyber symposium at the Military Heritage Alliance facility in Sioux Falls, S.D. A U.S. District Judge has upheld a $5M plus interest arbitration award to Bob Zeidman.

‘Pillow Guy’ ordered to pay $5M, interest from SD event

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Bob Zeidman has visited South Dakota just once in his lifetime. He could be $5 million richer because of it.

The computer forensics expert attended a Cyber Symposium in August 2021 in Sioux Falls hosted by My Pillow founder and election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, who claimed to have incriminating data from the 2020 presidential election. Among Lindell’s claims was that China hacked into U.S. voting systems and helped elect Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

Lindell was confident enough to launch the “Prove Mike Wrong Challenge” as part of the event at the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance. He offered $5 million to anyone who could show that data and other materials he released were not actually from the 2020 election.

Bob Zeidman Prove Mike Wrong Challenge
Bob Zeidman

Zeidman, who specializes in software security and analysis, was skeptical soon after arriving in Sioux Falls. Lindell had promised “packet captures,” records of internet activity that purportedly showed votes being altered from Trump to Biden. But those in attendance saw nothing of the sort.

“Not only was there no packet capture data, there was no data,” Zeidman, 64, told South Dakota News Watch in a phone interview from his home in Las Vegas. “There was nothing. It was gibberish. At one point I called my wife and said, ‘Start thinking about what you want to do with the $5 million.’”

Zeidman filed a report of his findings that was rejected by Lindell but backed up by an arbitration panel after Zeidman sued. On Feb. 21, a federal judge in Minnesota found “no evidence that the arbitration panel exceeded its authority” and ordered that Lindell pay $5 million with interest to Zeidman within 30 days.

Lindell also faces a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems for claiming that the company rigged the 2020 election as well as a separate lawsuit by a different voting machine company, Smartmatic.

He told The Associated Press that he plans to appeal the federal court ruling that upheld the $5 million award from the symposium.

“Of course we’re going to appeal it,” he said. “This guy doesn’t have a dime coming.”

Lindell, a Minnesota native who overcame drug addiction and became a self-made millionaire with his infomercial-fueled pillow venture, consulted with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to hold his three-day cyber symposium at the Military Heritage Alliance facility, previously Badlands Pawn.

Zeidman, who viewed Lindell as a rags-to-riches American success story, acknowledged being intrigued by the possibilities surrounding the event.

“My friends were saying that I should go and, you know, maybe I’d win $5 million,” Zeidman told News Watch. “I said, ‘Well, Lindell has a team of experts that already vetted the data and they think it’s correct. Now they could be wrong, but I’m not going to be able to figure that out in three days.’ But then I thought I’d be there for history in the making. Either an election would be overturned or this major figure would be exposed for misrepresenting the facts. So I thought it would be a fun experience and decided to go there. And then within three hours, I realized that it was all nonsense.”

Zeidman and the other experts were seeking packet capture data, or PCAPs, which Zeidman describes as “small chunks of information that are sent over a network like the Internet and then reassembled at the other end.” Lindell had promised PCAPs of votes flowing outside U.S. systems to China and coming back as votes for Biden rather than Trump.

Other specialists had the same suspicions as Zeidman.

Robert Graham, a data consultant and popular blogger on cyber issues, told Reuters that he quickly concluded that the data presented in Sioux Falls was “bunk” and “the product of a “deranged imagination.”

But Zeidman, a graduate of Cornell and Stanford who designs forensic software technology, knew that he needed to go deeper to prove the data had no connection to the 2020 election, a prerequisite for claiming the $5 million prize.

He was able to convert one of the data sets back to its origin as a Microsoft Word file containing a random series of IP addresses.

Election Hacks book“With no other information, they were about as meaningful as a list of random words,” he wrote in “Election Hacks,” a book he self-published in November 2023. “I repeated the same process with the other text files and found even stranger stuff. These files were also word processor documents but contained thousands of lines of gibberish.”

Zeidman registered his report with the U.S. Copyright Office, put it on a flash drive and submitted it to Lindell’s team before leaving town.

Lindell never responded, so Zeidman hired lawyers and filed an arbitration lawsuit that dragged on for 18 months before a hearing was scheduled before a three-person American Arbitration Association panel in January 2023.

The panel ruled unanimously in Zeidman’s favor in April 2023, ordering Lindell to pay the $5 million. Lindell appealed the ruling, but the odds were against him. The legal standard for overturning an arbitration ruling requires proving that the judgment was obtained  by “corruption, fraud, or undue means” or that the arbitrators showed misconduct or exceeded their powers.

In an interview with the New York Times following the decision, Lindell called the ruling “disgusting” and “mused about how (Zeidman) had been granted admission to the symposium.”

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim, while noting that the panel had to interpret a “poorly written contract,” agreed that Zeidman’s packet capture argument was “quite a leap” in the context of the challenge. Still, Tunheim concluded, the court’s responsibility was “not to evaluate the merits but rather ensure that the panel acted appropriately” and that narrow review led him to confirm the arbitration award.

Though Lindell immediately stated his intention to appeal, he’ll face the same hurdles at the next stage of the process. As for Lindell’s financial woes, which led him to tell CBS MoneyWatch in October 2023 that he has “$10,000 to my name,” Zeidman believes he will get his money.

“The good news is that our case is moving along much faster than Dominion and Smartmatic cases, because those will bankrupt him for sure,” said Zeidman. “Those are for more than a billion dollars each. He doesn’t have that kind of money, but I think he can manage mine.”

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