Defying a demand from the federal government to stop publicizing his case, today Lyndon McLellan was told the IRS is abandoning its efforts to keep more than $107,000 it took from his bank account without ever charging him with a crime.
The case received national attention and outrage, including from a member of Congress, which led to this threatening message from an Assistant U.S. Attorney to McLellan's lawyers:
Whoever made [the case file] public may serve their own interest but will not help this particular case. Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it. But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency. My offer is to return 50% of the money.
So much for that; Mr. McLellan will be receiving 100% of his money back.
That said, the government is still attempting to keep the interest earned by Mr. McLellan's seized funds and refuses to reimburse Mr. McLellan for the costs of getting his money returned. The Institute for Justice insists the case isn't over until that is remedied as well:
Yesterday, just two weeks after the Institute for Justice took on the case and brought it to the attention of the nation, the IRS and Department of Justice moved to voluntarily dismiss the case and give Lyndon back 100% of his hard-earned money.
“I'm relieved to be getting my money back,” said Lyndon McLellan. "What’s wrong is wrong, and what the government did here is wrong. I just hope that by standing up for what’s right, it means this won’t happen to other people.”
Even after he recovers his bank account, Lyndon is still out tens of thousands of dollars, thanks to the government’s actions. Lyndon paid a $3,000 retainer to a private attorney before IJ took the case on pro bono, and he also paid approximately $19,000 for an accountant to audit his business and to provide other services to help convince the government he did nothing wrong. The government is refusing to pay those expenses. And the government also is refusing to pay interest on the money.
“The government cannot turn Lyndon’s life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened,” said Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney at the Institute for Justice who represents Lyndon. “Lyndon should not have to pay for the government’s lapse in judgment. And the government certainly should not profit from its misbehavior by keeping the interest that it earned while holding Lyndon’s money. We’ll continue to litigate this case until the government makes Lyndon whole.”
Score another one for the good guys in the fight for a restoration of property rights and respect for due process, and kudos to Lyndon McLellan for not being cowed by the federal government's threatening offer. Public scrutiny of this abusive practice and the willingness of victims to fight for their property are both essential elements of vital reform efforts.