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Law

Lawyers for Brett Favre to Depose Former Mississippi Governor

  • Hall of Famer’s legal team seeks to establish Phil Bryant’s culpability in the alleged welfare scheme.
  • The former quarterback was deposed for eight hours in December.
Brett Favre
Syndication: Nashville Tennessean

Attorneys for Brett Favre will depose former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant later this month, as the Hall of Fame quarterback continues his legal fight in the welfare funds lawsuit. 

Bryant isn’t a defendant in the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) civil case. But since Favre was sued along with more than 40 others in May 2022, his defense team has attempted to highlight Bryant’s alleged culpability in the scheme that led to about $7 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds illegally funneled to two Favre-related projects. 

Bryant will be deposed at a law firm in Jackson, Miss., on Jan. 25, according to a court filing. Favre will depose Mississippi Auditor Shad White the following day, according to another filing. Favre sued White for defamation last February, a case that is still pending.

Favre was deposed for more than eight hours by MDHS lawyers on Dec. 11.

Nearly $2 million of TANF funds went to Prevacus, a pharmaceutical company that counted Favre as its largest investor. Another $5 million in TANF funds went to construct a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

Favre has not been charged criminally and has denied any wrongdoing. The TANF funds were transferred from MDHS—the state welfare agency led by John Davis at the time—through the non-profit Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC), and then to Prevacus and the University Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation. 

While Favre’s deposition remains under seal, one of Favre’s lawyers wrote in a Dec. 29 letter to Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Debra H. Gibbs — the judge presiding over Favre’s defamation case against White — that Favre’s deposition in the Mississippi welfare funds lawsuit and other discovery in the case “confirms that Favre had no knowledge that welfare funds were being misused or that MCEC’s funding was a sham, and that he committed no wrongdoing.”

“Indeed, discovery taken in that matter confirms that numerous government agencies, lawyers, university administrators, and former Governor Phil Bryant were aware of and approved the funding at issue, which defeats the accusation that Favre, a layperson, could have known about any alleged improprieties,” attorney Daniel R. Benson wrote in the letter.

Nancy and Zach New, who ran the MCEC, and Davis pleaded guilty to state and federal charges related to the scheme. 

“Davis and New did not [and could not have] authorized structuring the $5 million in funding [for the volleyball arena] as a sublease on their own,” Favre’s attorneys wrote in a November 2022 filing. “They needed and obtained the approval and assistance of other State officials and agencies—including Governor Bryant, the Attorney General, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Southern Miss itself, and the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation.”

Favre’s attorneys wrote in that filing that their client “is a private citizen with no position in government.”

The notice of deposition comes two weeks after an MCEC filing that highlighted Bryant’s alleged involvement in the scheme. 

“Based on the foregoing, as well as evidence that will be presented at trial, Bryant was involved, both directly and indirectly, in directing, approving, facilitating, and/or furthering MDHS’s use of federal grant funds for Prevacus and for construction of the USM volleyball center,” MCEC lawyers wrote in a Dec. 12 filing

MCEC lawyers claim Bryant used Favre “as intermediary” in the scheme. 

“By omitting Bryant [as a defendant] … MDHS seeks to distance itself from its 25-year course of performance in relation to TANF and other grant expenditures,” MCEC attorneys wrote. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated Jan. 4 with White’s deposition information.

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