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Privilege Denied: Mississippi Supreme Court Rejects Brett Favre’s Request to Remove Him from Welfare Fraud Lawsuit Moving Case Forward

The Mississippi Supreme Court has declared that it will keep former NFL quarterback Brett Favre as a defendant in a civil lawsuit aiming to reclaim millions of misspent welfare funds designated to aid some of the most impoverished people in the United States.

The three panel of justices released a ruling on Wednesday, rejecting an appeal made by Favre. His legal representatives had presented written arguments in May, asserting that the Mississippi Department of Human Services’ claims against the Pro Football Hall of Famer lacks substantial legal basis.

Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre wears a t-shirt that reads “National Tight End Day” prior to the start of an NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

“This will now allow the civil litigation to move forward, and MDHS is encouraged by that prospect and by the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Mississippi Department of Human Services Director Bob Anderson said in a statement after the order came down.

According to prosecutors, federal welfare funds amounting to millions, designated for economically disadvantaged residents of Mississippi, were purportedly squandered on initiatives endorsed by affluent or well-connected individuals between 2016 and 2019. It is considered the largest case of public fraud in the state’s history.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services sued its former director and Favre in May 2022 over the misuse of $77 million meant to help the neediest families in the nation’s poorest state. 

The lawsuit contends that money from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program was improperly diverted, including to projects backed by Favre. Though no criminal charges have been levied against Favre, several individuals, including the former department director, have confessed to their roles in the financial mismanagement scheme.

According to The Clarion-Ledger, the state agency approved 167 out of 11,717 TANF applications in 2016. The former director and others involved in the scheme were able to reallocate the funds through subgrants for nonprofits that ostensibly were to help poor families. More than 19 percent of the state’s 2.9 million residents live in poverty, U.S. Census data shows.

According to the claim, $5 million was allocated for a university volleyball arena, where Favre’s daughter was a player and $1.7 million for the development of a concussion treatment drug.

On April 24, Judge Faye Peterson of Hinds County Circuit denied Favre’s plea to be excused from the lawsuit, which involves over 30 individuals and entities as defendants. Then, Favre sought recourse in the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn Peterson’s decision.

Favre argued to the state Supreme Court that officials from the Department of Human Services, along with Nancy New, who supervised a nonprofit organization under Human Services contracts, orchestrated the scheme to channel welfare funds towards the volleyball center, and he was unaware of it.

However, the state argued that Favre accepted $1.1 million in TANF funds from New in exchange for speeches he did not deliver. While Favre reimbursed that amount, he allegedly failed to repay the $1.7 million he facilitated for his company, Prevacus, and the $5 million directed towards a volleyball facility.

Favre’s legal team argued that the department was targeting the former NFL quarterback to divert attention from its own complicity in the fraud.

State attorneys slammed Favre’s lawyers in March, asserting that they offered a “lengthy press release” instead of legal arguments in their efforts to absolve him of wrongdoing. They further noted in May that the Mississippi Supreme Court doesn’t grant appeals “based on whether a defendant is famous, or on speculations about the plaintiff’s motives, or on fact disputes.”

Text messages disclosed in a court filing in September 2022 show Favre actively sought guarantees from the nonprofit leader that his pursuit of millions in grants would remain concealed from public knowledge.

“If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre texted New.

“No, we never have had that information publicized,” she texted back. “I understand you being uneasy about that though.

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