JACKSON, Miss. — A judge should ignore a request from retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre to be removed from a civil lawsuit that seeks to recover misspent welfare money in Mississippi’s largest-ever public corruption case, the state Department of Human Services said this week.
Millions of federal welfare dollars were intended to help low-income Mississippi residents — some of the poorest people in the country — but were instead squandered on projects supported by wealthy or well-connected people, including projects backed by Favre, prosecutors say.
No criminal charges have been brought against the NFL Hall of Famer, although other people have pleaded guilty to their part in the misspending.
Favre’s attorneys argue the Department of Human Services is suing Favre, “a Mississippi and national celebrity,” to deflect from the department’s own role in allowing fraud, and have have filed two sets of papers urging a Mississippi judge to dismiss Favre from the suit.
Kaytie Pickett, an attorney for the department, responded that Favre’s attorneys failed to provide solid legal arguments to get their client out of the lawsuit.
“Favre’s submission is not a motion to dismiss; it is a long press release,” Pickett wrote in court papers filed Monday. “The court should disregard Favre’s diatribe.”
The Department of Human Services last year sued Favre and more than three dozen other people or businesses.
The suit says money was misspent on things like $5 million to help build a volleyball arena that Favre supported at his alma mater the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played the sport, and $1.7 million toward development of a concussion treatment drug by a company in which Favre was an investor.
Those who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges include John Davis, a former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services; and Nancy New, the director of a nonprofit organization who had ties to Favre and the volleyball and concussion drug projects.
Favre has repaid $1.1 million he received for speaking fees from New’s organization, which spent Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money with approval from the Department of Human Services under Davis. Mississippi Auditor Shad White said Favre, who lives in Mississippi, never showed up to give those speeches.
Favre said in October that he did nothing wrong and had been “ unjustly smeared ” in news coverage of the welfare misspending.
Favre first sought to be dismissed from the state’s civil lawsuit in November. The state revised its demand against him in December. His attorneys filed papers in February, again asking a judge to dismiss Favre from the case.
His latest attempt to get out of the lawsuit came a day after he filed three defamation lawsuits against the auditor White and two former NFL players, Pat McAfee and Shannon Sharpe, who have sharply criticized Favre in their roles as national sportscasters. White, McAfee and Sharpe had not filed court papers to respond by Friday, records show.