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Law

Favre’s Attorneys Mount Challenge Over Text Messages in Welfare Funds Lawsuit

  • Attorneys for Favre claim in latest filing in civil case that their client can't authenticate text messages.
  • Text messages from Favre were made public in Mississippi welfare civil case.
Brett Favre sues Shannon Sharpe, Pat McAfee, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White .
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Attorneys for Brett Favre claimed that it’s “impossible” for their client to authenticate many of the text messages from his iPhone that allegedly show his efforts to obtain funds from Mississippi’s welfare agency. 

The Mississippi Department of Human Services has made several texts from Favre public since the lawsuit was filed last year. Favre is among the more than 40 defendants in the civil case filed by the welfare agency that seeks to recoup millions of misappropriated funds. 

Typically, to be used in court, the sender needs to authenticate text messages and other electronic communications.

But Favre’s lawyers wrote in a Monday filing that the Hall of Fame quarterback “cannot admit or deny certain portions of [text messages] because they are not within his knowledge or reflected in his records, making it impossible to admit or deny their authenticity.”

“[MDHS] expects Favre to recall text messages that he does not have record of word-for-word even though they are from between four to six years ago — this would be an impossible task for anyone, and Favre is unable to do so,” Favre’s lawyers wrote. 

The text messages that have appeared as exhibits over the last several months are primarily from the phones of other defendants who were part of a scheme that funneled millions of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. 

TANF, a federal program aimed at helping the nation’s neediest families, has limitations on using those funds. 

MDHS alleged in court documents filed earlier this year that Favre “knew” the $5 million that originated from the welfare agency and funneled through a nonprofit to pay for a volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi “was a sham.” 

The construction of the volleyball facility at Favre’s alma mater and where his daughter played the sport at the time used TANF funds even though such funds are not allocated for brick and mortar (construction). 

To back up its claims, MDHS has provided texts from Nancy New (the head of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center), Favre business partner Jake Vanldandingham, and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.

 “Would this also solve the brick and mortar issue,” Favre allegedly said in a text to New in July 2017. 

John Davis was the head of the welfare agency at the time, and — like New and Vanldandingham — are also defendants in the civil case. Davis and New pleaded guilty to state and federal charges related to the scheme. 

“Unless he has some reason to think his text messages with Nancy New, Governor Bryant, or Jake Vanlandingham were fabricated, which he does not claim, then he has no basis to deny these admissions,” MDHS lawyers wrote in a filing last week. “His denials do not get anyone closer to the truth; they do nothing but burden MDHS with having to authenticate each text.”

Beyond the money that went toward the volleyball center, MDHS lawyers alleged Favre obtained $1.1 million of welfare funds for speeches and appearances he did not perform.

“Will the public perception be that I became a spokesperson for various state-funded shelters, schools, homes, etc…….and was compensated with state money? Or can we keep this confidential” Favre asked Nancy New. 

Favre repaid the money for the appearances. He has denied knowing the money that went to him, Southern Miss and Prevacus came from TANF funds. Favre has not been charged criminally. 

Prevacus — where Favre was the largest investor — received $1.7 million of welfare funds, according to MDHS filings. 

“I believe if it’s possible she and John Davis would use federal grant money for Prevacus,” Favre said in a December 2018 text to Vanlandingham. 

Beyond the disagreement with MDHS over the text messages, Favre’s attorneys are seeking an extension to respond to the discovery requested in the case. His legal team also took issue with MDHS’ claim that Favre has not provided any text messages.  

“This gratuitous statement and omission had its intended effect— numerous media outlets published articles following [MDHS] filing stating that Favre is being accused of not producing text messages,” Favre’s lawyers wrote. 

Front Office Sports was the first of those media outlets to report on the MDHS filing last week. 
Beyond Favre, MDHS subpoenaed nearly 30 others over the last two weeks for communications with Favre over the efforts to build and fund the volleyball facility.

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