60 Minutes Source on Tobacco Meeting With Fed Lawyers
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) _ A former tobacco company executive and whistle blower met today with Justice Department attorneys believed to be investigating the industry.
Jeffrey Wigand, who talked to the CBS television show ``60 Minutes″ for a segment on tobacco that was never broadcast, also planned to give a deposition to state lawyers about whether his former employer, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., lied and altered research to hide the perils of smoking.
``Jeffrey Wigand’s testimony will be very devastating to the tobacco industry,″ Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said today. ``This is a man who has been on the inside for four years, a man who knows where all the bodies are buried and we just want to see if we can find some of those bodies.″
Wigand refused to comment to reporters as he arrived at today’s meeting, accompanied by Moore and his own lawyer, Richard Scruggs, in Scruggs’ office in Pascagoula.
A Kentucky judge on Monday forbade Wigand to speak publicly about Brown & Williamson, and ordered him to brief his former employer beforehand about his expected testimony for a lawsuit against the tobacco industry in Mississippi.
But Jackson County Judge William Myers ruled Tuesday that Mississippi could take a deposition from Wigand, saying the Kentucky court has no jurisdiction in Mississippi.
Federal attorneys quickly scheduled their own deposition.
The Justice Department would not describe the nature of its inquiry or say why its lawyers wanted to meet with Wigand.
But two federal criminal investigations are under way into whether tobacco industry executives lied to Congress and regulators about smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine.
Moore said two of the lawyers questioning Wigand were from the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Wigand reportedly told ``60 Minutes″ that Brown & Williamson scrapped plans to make a safer cigarette and used a flavoring in pipe tobacco that was known to cause cancer in laboratory animals. CBS pulled the interview, fearing a lawsuit, but portions were leaked to the New York Daily News.
Moore sued Brown & Williamson and 12 other tobacco companies in 1994, seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in state money spent treating the poor for smoking-related illnesses.
Brown & Williamson sued Wigand last week, saying he violated an agreement to not divulge ``competitively sensitive″ information by talking to ``60 Minutes.″ The Kentucky judge’s order barred him from talking about any confidential documents.