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Brett Favre, Phil Bryant, & Jail

If they are found guilty of stealing from the poorest among us in order to enrich themselves, then the least we could do would be to put Brett Favre and the former governor of Mississippi behind bars.

Two things can be true:

  1. Brett Favre is a Hall of Fame football player, he’s in the pantheon of quarterbacks, and is arguably the greatest player in Green Bay Packers history.
  2. He is allegedly at the center of an alarming, gut-wrenching criminal conspiracy currently unfolding in Mississippi.

In these post-factual days of performative grievance, insurrection, and cruelty-as-sport, we’ve been conditioned to treat civilization’s parade of sneering bad-faith actors and their ongoing cultural pillage as unsurprising. Even normal. Drab. But every now and then, such an odious reverse Robin Hood emerges to unleash such retrograde malignancy on the most vulnerable among us that even doctrinaire fashy apparatchiks get off the ride.

There is a criminal conspiracy afoot. Calling it “the Brett Favre Mississippi welfare scandal” makes for reductive, somewhat crude, but apt shorthand. Given that Favre has not been charged with any crime as of this writing, perhaps the most accurate moniker for this morass of malevolence would be “Mississippi’s largest fraud case in at least 20 years, and perhaps all time depending on new revelations.”

In any event, however, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, a network of associated nonprofit groups, and a handful of high-profile interlopers stole funds meant for anti-poverty, public health, and education services and used them for anything but.

And if most or everything of what’s been alleged can be proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, Brett Favre and his purported co-conspirators need to go to jail.

Because that’s what jail is for.

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Let’s establish the basic timeline of the allegations in play here, reiterating that Favre and other related persons are innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers:

  • Favre and a handful of others very much appear to have conspired to steal from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a fund meant for underprivileged Mississippians, including impoverished children and cancer patients.
  • Favre and Bryant worked to redirect funds provided by the Mississippi Department of Human Services from two nonprofit organizations — the Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center — to Prevacus, a pharmaceutical company now known as Odyssey Health in which the retired QB holds a significant equity stake. (h/t Mississippi Today)
  • Favre helped to redirect approximately $5 million in allegedly stolen funds to build a volleyball facility at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter is currently a volleyball player. Favre pursued similar efforts to enrich the Southern Miss football program.
  • There was a concerted effort to ensure that the media and the public would never learn crucial details of the alleged conspiracy while governor Phil Bryant used his position to make the alleged conspiracy a reality.
  • Favre, who personally earned $1.1 million for his Southern Miss push, claims he did not know where the money for those projects came from.
  • All told, authorities maintain that $77 million in TANF funds were used fraudulently.
  • Click here for a broader timeline of events dating back to 2015 as compiled by the Mississippi Free Press.

Multiple members of the alleged conspiracy have already pleaded guilty and flipped, including Nancy New and son Zachary New of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, an organization that received several million dollars from TANF, the Clarion Ledger notes. But there’s a key difference between someone like Nancy New and someone like Brett Favre:

Wealth, fame, and status as arguably the Magnolia State’s foremost folk hero of the modern era.

But the text message exchanges between those two, to say nothing of similarly damning electronic communications between Favre and then-Gov. Bryant, absolutely speak for themselves:

My translation of the above text messages:

FAVRE: If I do these crimes, can you guarantee that I will be able to get away with the crimes?

NEW: Probably yes, but I will have to follow up with other folks to know if your criming is a go.

FAVRE: I appreciate your assurance about me hopefully committing these crimes.

NEW: I spoke with the Governor of Mississippi and he agreed to join our criminal conspiracy!

FAVRE: Word, I now feel even more validated about our plans to commit crimes.

An intense violation of the Stringer Bell rule? Yes, very much so. But unlike a scene from a television show, this is no laughing matter; it’s real. We know that some number of rogue actors conspired to steal money from the most deeply impoverished people in the single poorest state in America. All that’s left to tabulate is the finer details regarding who, what, and when.

In any sane society that even tacitly acknowledges an increasingly mythical, elusive concept known as the rule of law, anyone proven to be involved in such a shameless and repeated pattern of fraud and thievery would face the sound and the fury; the same stern, demonstrative, brimstone-tier omnibus of punishments that you or I would.

Whether that stands any chance of being the case is a question awash in the most teeth-gnashing kind of uncertainty that’s part and parcel of a civic epoch marked by tribalism, ritualistic violence and weaponized humiliation toward historically oppressed classes, and deep-seated authoritarian urges that, once considered shameful, find themselves increasingly celebrated.

Until the victims of this historic (and historically shameless) fraud scheme get their just recompense and the dignity that goes along with it, we ought to normalize saying the word “jail” out loud. Keep it top-of-mind.

And if somehow justice cannot be furnished to these human beings despite a paper trail that could stretch to the moon and back, let us consider why we even have jails — or laws in general, for that matter.

This article reflects the opinions of the writer and not necessarily those of Boardroom, 35V, or its partners.

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