The Mississippi Supreme Court said it will not dismiss former NFL quarterback Brett Favre from a civil lawsuit filed by the state seeking to recoup millions of dollars distributed as part of what the state calls a statewide welfare fraud scheme.
The three-justice panel issued an order denying Favre’s appeal on Wednesday. CNN has reached out to Favre’s representation for comment.
Favre’s attorneys said the state’s Supreme Court should allow Favre to be removed from the lawsuit because he received no financial benefit from the transfer of money from the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) to the athletic department of the University of Southern Mississippi, his alma mater.
They argued dismissing Favre as a defendant “would prevent further substantial and irreparable harm to Favre’s reputation generated by public officials seizing on meritless claims to attract public attention.”
In 2020, a state audit found that more than $77 million was improperly used from the welfare program meant for the neediest families in Mississippi, including spending on expensive cars, a private school and pet projects of celebrities and the politically connected.
Portions of the money were used to build a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, as well as to invest in a company that was seeking to develop a concussion drug, a cause that Favre supported. According to the state’s lawsuit, Favre was the “largest individual outside investor and holder of corporate stock” in the company, Prevacus.
Favre has not been charged criminally in the welfare fraud scheme. He is, however, one of more than three dozen people and entities named in the civil suit brought by the state to recover some of the funds.
Favre initially filed a motion to dismiss in November 2022, but the state revised its demand against him a month later. In February, attorneys for Favre filed another motion asking a judge for him to be removed from the far-reaching civil lawsuit.
Then, in April, a Hinds County Circuit Court judge denied his motion. Favre’s attorneys appealed that decision in May to the state Supreme Court.
Eric Herschmann, an attorney for Favre, filed a lengthy denial of allegations he used misappropriated state funds meant for needy families for the construction of a state-of-the-art volleyball facility at the university where his daughter played.
Favre did admit, in regard to the USM volleyball facility, that he donated autographed materials to be auctioned off, solicited third parties to help with the construction, and held meetings with former MDHS chief John Davis, ex-USM Athletic Director Jon Gilbert, and Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) founder Nancy New about the construction.
He also claimed that “John Davis suggested that MDHS could provide $4 million in funding” to build the facility.
Davis pleaded guilty to two federal counts and 18 state counts, while New pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, fraud, mail fraud and racketeering in connection with the scandal.
Favre also admitted to being paid $1.1 million by MCEC in exchange for recording a radio advertisement and other services which he claims was repaid to the state, CNN reported. Herschmann told Fox News in October that Favre “got paid for doing every radio spot that was requested.”
CNN has reported that Favre returned $500,000 in May 2020 and repaid the remaining $600,000 in October 2021 for the public service ad campaign after the state auditor issued a demand letter for it, according to the auditor’s office. But the auditor’s office maintained in 2021 that Favre still owed $228,000 in interest.