Attorneys for the State of Mississippi interrogated retired NFL star Brett Favre for more than nine hours in a secret deposition about the State’s $77-million welfare scandal in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Monday.
Between 2017 and 2019, Mississippi Department of Human Services Director John Davis and nonprofit operator Nancy New directed millions in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds to Favre, a pharmaceutical business he was heavily invested in and a volleyball stadium he wanted built at his alma mater. The athlete has denied knowing the money came from welfare funds, however, and is among dozens of people or organizations the State says received illicit funds.
Favre has not been charged with a crime but is a defendant in a civil suit as the Mississippi Department of Human Services fights to recoup millions in misspent TANF funds. The former quarterback’s deposition was behind closed doors, so neither the State lawyers’ questions nor his answers are public knowledge. It is unlikely that the transcript will become public anytime soon. In October, a Hinds County Circuit Court judge agreed to a request from the State, Favre and other defendants to issue a protective order sealing certain discovery documents—like the deposition transcript.
The State originally scheduled the deposition to take place at Hattiesburg’s Indigo Hotel in October just before the statewide elections, but the State rescheduled it for Dec. 11 starting at 8 a.m. without making the new location public.
Hattiesburg Patriot Editor Tom Garmon told the Mississippi Free Press this morning that he “became aware” that the deposition was scheduled to take place at a Primerica business office in Hattiesburg starting on Monday morning. Mike Landrum, who played for the University of Southern Mississippi’s Golden Eagles football team several years before Favre, owns the business.
Garmon said he arrived at the Primerica office several hours after the deposition was set to begin and that he was the lone member of the media there. He waited outside the office for about five hours and saw Favre exit the building at 5:30 p.m., he said. A video Garmon shared with the Mississippi Free Press shows Favre leaving the office at dusk as someone arrives to retrieve him in a pickup truck.
‘Is There Anyway The Media Can Find Out?’
In 2020, Brett Favre paid back $500,000 of a $1.1-million payment he received in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds to give motivational speeches and record advertisements. He repaid the other $600,000 after receiving a demand letter from the state auditor’s office in late 2021.
Hundreds of text messages that became public through court filings show that Favre sought help from John Davis and Nancy New.
“If you were to pay me is there anyway (sic) the media can find out where it came from and how much?” the football star asked New in an Aug. 3, 2017, text message after New proposed directing funds toward him as part of an effort to fund the volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre’s daughter was a volleyball athlete there at the time.
Favre has denied knowing the money came from welfare funds, and the text messages do not show anyone directly telling him TANF money was involved. The quarterback also sought help from former Gov. Phil Bryant, but the former governor has denied having any role in directing welfare funds to Favre’s projects.
Text messages released in court filings show that, between 2017 and 2020, Bryant did offer to help Favre obtain funding for the volleyball stadium. The available texts do not show the former governor suggesting welfare funds, however; instead, he suggests private fundraising and seeking an appropriation from the Legislature.
“We obviously need your help big time and time is working against us,” Favre wrote in one text on Sept. 4, 2019, about the stadium, which he was still trying to get additional funds for even after Davis and New had already directed millions toward the project. “We are going to get there. … But we have to follow the law. I am to (sic) old for Federal Prison.😎,” replied Bryant, who by that time already knew the state auditor’s office had opened an investigation into how Davis was spending welfare funds.
The former governor released texts earlier this year showing that he helped connect Favre to powerful individuals, including then-President Donald Trump, as he sought funding for the drug company Prevacus and expedited federal approval for a concussion drug. None of those texts show the governor suggesting using state welfare dollars for Prevacus, however.
Text messages the Mississippi Free Press uncovered through a public-records request last year show Favre also sought help to get legislative funds for the volleyball project from current Gov. Tate Reeves in early 2020, but there is no evidence that Reeves assisted him. However, text messages Reeves’ office released in September do show that his brother, Todd Reeves, assisted Favre’s efforts to repay the State $500,000 in 2020.
Attorney General Not Pursuing Cases
Federal prosecutors and local Mississippi prosecutors are continuing to investigate the welfare scandal. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who filmed a COVID-19 PSA with Favre in April 2020 even after news of his possible ties to the scandal first surfaced, has not used her office to investigate or pursue charges in the welfare scandal.
“We turned over our entire evidence file to the Attorney General long ago because their prosecutors have jurisdiction,” Mississippi State Auditor Shad White told Front Office Sports Senior Reporter A.J. Perez last month. “We did the same for the federal prosecutors. The AG’s office has not expressed interest to me in pursuing the case so far.”
Fitch won reelection in November alongside Reeves, White and the other five Republican statewide officeholders.
Correction: This story originally said that Hattiesburg Patriot Editor Tom Garmon arrived at the Primerica office at 8 a.m.; Favre’s deposition was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., but Garmon did not arrive until several hours afterward.