Creditor in Shilo Sanders' bankruptcy case seeks payback, speaks out

Updated

The former security guard who is owed nearly $12 million from Shilo Sanders told USA TODAY Sports that he’ll never stop pursuing that debt even after the Colorado football standout filed for bankruptcy to get out of it last October.

John Darjean, 48, discussed the case in a recent interview with USA TODAY Sports, including Deion Sanders’ role in it as Shilo’s father.

“I’m not gonna stop until the truth gets out and until I win my $12 million,” Darjean said.

It all stems from an incident in 2015, when Shilo Sanders allegedly assaulted Darjean after Darjean tried to confiscate his phone at school when Sanders was 15 years old. Darjean said Shilo Sanders hit him so hard near his neck with his elbow that it left him with permanent injuries, nerve damage and incontinence.

Darjean then sued him in civil court in Dallas and won a default judgment against him of $11.89 million – a debt that Sanders is trying to get discharged in bankruptcy court so he can get a “fresh start in life, free from the oppressive burden of his debts,” according to Sanders’ attorneys.

Now Darjean is challenging the potential discharge because he wants to collect on it.

“They’re trying to make it go away, Deion and Shilo, but I’m going to keep fighting and I won’t ever stop fighting,” Darjean said.

Shilo Sanders
Shilo Sanders

What did John Darjean say about the case?

Darjean noted how Deion Sanders, Shilo’s father and coach at Colorado, initially corroborated Darjean’s version of the incident. But Darjean decided to file his lawsuit four days after Deion Sanders publicly reversed his position and told TMZ in 2016 that Darjean was a “grifter” and that his allegations about Shilo were false.

Darjean also said there were several official probes into the incident that ended with favorable conclusions for him, including by the police, workers compensation authorities and the civil court in Dallas. Now he’s hoping a bankruptcy judge takes his side, too.

By law, the debt won’t get discharged if the judge determines it stems from a “willful and malicious” injury, as Darjean’s attorneys say has already been decided by the court in Texas. In response, Shilo Sanders’ attorneys have suggested Darjean’s injuries came from pre-existing health problems, not his incident with Shilo, now 24 years old.

“They don’t want the truth to come out, and they’re trying to spin it that I was already injured and he didn’t really do this,” Darjean said. “It’s a lie. Not one person came and testified on Deion Sanders’ and Shilo Sanders’ behalf. Not one person. And so now they’re trying to get it thrown out in bankruptcy, and I don’t believe that’s gonna happen.”

What is Deion Sanders' role in this case?

Darjean described three main areas that involve the Pro Football Hall of Famer − an investigative report, the handling of security video footage from the incident and the lead-up to the incident itself.

The investigative report

Deion Sanders didn’t witness the incident, but 12 days afterward he agreed to an interview about it with an investigator with the Texas state child protective services agency (CPS), according to court records. The investigator, Jordan Ham, wanted to find out what he knew about what happened. Deion Sanders was accompanied by an attorney to the interview and told the investigator that Darjean handled the situation appropriately after Shilo had been “disruptive” at school, according to Ham’s report.

“Mr. Sanders stated that Shilo reportedly struck Mr. Darjean in the chest; and began resisting away from Mr. Darjean,” stated the report obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “Mr. Sanders stated that Mr. Darjean was required to restrain Shilo.”

Ham confirmed this account again under oath in a pretrial deposition in 2017, according to court records. But Deion Sanders since has taken the opposite position − that Darjean was the aggressor using excessive force against his son.

“Deion was adamant I didn’t do anything wrong,” Darjean said. “But then he changed his story.”

Deion Sanders said in a subsequent pretrial deposition he couldn’t have known what really happened since he wasn’t there and indicated he initially had obtained information from other sources.

Then the stakes got higher with liability issues for him and his son.

The attorney who Ham said accompanied Sanders to the interview with him didn’t return a message seeking comment. The University of Colorado said Deion and Shilo Sanders declined comment on the pending case.

The security video footage

Deion Sanders said in a pretrial deposition that he arranged to obtain security video footage of the incident through a backchannel contact after requesting it from school authorities but not getting it. Sanders said then he couldn't remember the contact's name, but he was identified by Darjean and another witness as a school computer technician, according to court records.

“Someone slipped and gave it − not slipped, but they manipulated and gave us the video,” Sanders said in a pretrial deposition from 2017-18 previously posted on YouTube. “That’s how we got our hands on the video. It’s not like the school provided the video for us.”

Darjean said this is evidence that Deion Sanders “stole” video footage that might have supported Darjean’s version of events. In 2016, TMZ published video footage of the incident that Sanders encouraged viewers to watch. But that footage didn’t show the whole incident, only portions that were inconclusive or that have been used to support Sanders’ position that Darjean was the aggressor.

Other footage from security cameras involving Shilo Sanders was “mistakenly erased” by this computer technician while he attempted to save it to a flash drive, according to a statement Darjean said the technician provided him. It's not clear what that footage showed. The technician couldn't be reached for comment.

Shilo Sanders’ attorney also didn’t return a message seeking comment.

The incident itself

Darjean said Deion Sanders called and asked him to get Shilo’s phone that day so he couldn’t talk to his ex-wife, Shilo’s mother. Shilo previously had been in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle and “snapped" when Darjean tried to take his phone, which Shilo was forbidden to use during school hours, Darjean said.

“I did this because it was my job, and I was within my rights to do it,” Darjean said.

What about the default judgment against Shilo Sanders?

Darjean filed suit in 2016 and named three defendants: Shilo Sanders, Deion Sanders and Pilar Sanders, Shilo’s mother. Darjean accused the parents of being negligent with their parenting of Shilo, but both parents were dismissed from the case by early 2019. That left Shilo as the sole remaining defendant when he left for college at South Carolina in 2019 at age 19.

When the case finally went to trial in March 2022, Shilo Sanders didn’t show up for it, leading the court to enter the default judgment against him of $11.89 million. Darjean presented evidence at trial, but Shilo wasn’t there to dispute it after failing to retain an attorney in the case since 2020. Court records show trial notices were sent to his email account and his old address at South Carolina more than a year after he transferred to Jackson State in Mississippi.

Darjean said the bailiff at the trial even went out into the hallway of the court to call for him: “Shilo Sanders!? Shilo Sanders!?"

There was no response.

But Darjean noted Shilo had used legal counsel to defend himself from the lawsuit for years and also testified in a pretrial deposition in 2018.

“It’s not like this is a new case and he never had a lawyer,” Darjean said.

The court made findings of fact and conclusions of law after the trial.

“On September 17, 2015, Shilo Sanders did in fact cause physical harm and injuries to John Darjean by assaulting him,” said the findings signed by the judge.

Did Darjean have pre-existing injuries?

Darjean is a former pro baseball outfielder who was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Yankees in the 1997 amateur draft. Now living in the Dominican Republic, he never made it to the major leagues but does remember running into an outfield wall early in his pro career while chasing a fly ball. He said that led to minor neck problems and might have led him to get spinal surgery in 2014, long before the incident.

He said Shilo’s “roundhouse” elbow severely aggravated that issue, turning a single-level spinal fusion into a much more serious injury that required a five-level fusion. He was taken to the hospital after the incident and went into surgery a few days later. He said he still battles partial paralysis and incontinence that started soon after the incident.

“He hit me so hard they had to remove the one-level neck fusion and change it out with a five-level neck fusion,” Darjean said. “That’s what they’re trying to pretend, that I was already messed up. I wasn’t taking any medication. I wasn’t doing any of that. I didn’t have any issues. … After my surgery (in 2014), I was fine.”

Is he motivated by Deion Sanders' wealth?

Deion Sanders has portrayed this as a money grab. Shilo Sanders said in pretrial testimony that Darjean was the aggressor. Some witnesses said it looked like Darjean was choking Shilo, but Darjean said Shilo was faking it.

The judgment that is owed to Darjean from Shilo includes $2 million for future lost earning capacity and $3 million for future physical impairment.

“I would go after anyone that assaulted me; I don’t care who it was,” Darjean said.

He said he still has to undergo another surgery, still has major nerve damage and has received $1,400 monthly in disability payments.

“So it doesn’t matter if it’s Deion Sanders or not,” he said. “I would sue anybody. That’s my answer.”

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shilo Sanders' bankruptcy case: Creditor speaks out

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