Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, one of 38 defendants being sued by the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), filed a motion through his lawyers Monday in Mississippi judicial court to dismiss the complaint against himself and Favre Enterprises.
"It is apparent that MDHS has sued Favre, a Mississippi and national celebrity, in an effort to deflect responsibility for its own egregious wrongdoing," the motion read in part.
According to a Mississippi state audit, at least $77 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, which originated from MDHS before flowing to nonprofits, were diverted from the poorest people in America's poorest state toward rich and powerful Mississippians. Six people have been arrested in the case, five of whom have pleaded guilty to state charges. Favre has not been charged criminally but was named in the civil suit on May 9.
"[MDHS]'s lawsuit is nothing more than a baseless attempt to blame Brett Favre for its own failure to oversee the welfare funds placed in its trust," Favre's lawyer, Eric Herschmann, said in an emailed statement to ESPN. "Mr. Favre never had any control over how Mississippi spent its welfare funds. He never made any misrepresentations to anyone."
A representative for MDHS told ESPN on Monday that, "At this point, MDHS doesn't want to try this case in the media, and we believe that merits of the case will stand on their own. We will leave that to a court to decide."
Also, a representative from state auditor Shad White's office told ESPN: "It's ludicrous to say that Mr. Favre has been singled out in any way. And as far as our office is concerned, Mr. Favre remains liable for $228,000 in interest for nonperformance of the contract in question."
Favre was paid $1.1 million from TANF funds for speeches White says he never made, according to the state audit and a civil lawsuit. He eventually paid the money back, but the state is seeking the amount it says he owes in interest.
Prevacus, a company developing a concussion drug in which Favre is the top investor and stockholder, also received TANF funds. The athletic foundation at Favre's alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, received $5 million in welfare money. Text messages show Favre pushed state officials for funding for a new volleyball facility on campus during the time his daughter was on the team. The volleyball facility was not mentioned in the civil lawsuit, but the motion filed by Favre's lawyers said that "it served as one of the false pretexts for MDHS to target Favre in this lawsuit."
As such, the motion filed Monday concluded that "Favre has already repaid to MDHS the only funds MDHS alleges he received" and claimed that MDHS "cannot allege that Favre ever received any portion of" payments to Prevacus. The motion also reiterated Favre's position that he did not know the source of the money he received. He told Fox News Digital in October that he had been "unjustly smeared" in the media.
Monday's motion also stated: "Favre, unlike [MDHS director John] Davis and [Mississippi Community Education Center founder Nancy] New and the other public officials, in fact did not know that any funds he received were TANF funds or were subject to a legal use restriction, had no responsibility or ability to audit or monitor, let alone control, the use of MDHS or MCEC funds, and did nothing wrong in connection with those funds."
Herschmann's statement continued: "As the State Auditor has acknowledged, Mr. Favre never knew welfare funds were involved in the first place. Once he found out, he returned all of the funds he received -- six months before MDHS filed its lawsuit. As the State Auditor also has acknowledged, Mr. Favre's conduct deserves applause, not a frivolous lawsuit. We believe that after the Court reviews our motion, this case will be dismissed."
However, according to text messages made public in the civil lawsuit, Favre asked New: "If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?"
Favre continued to press state officials for money even after being told in a text by then-governor Phil Bryant that "use of these funds [is] tightly controlled. Any improper use could result in violation of Federal Law. Auditors are currently reviewing the use of these funds."