Loop 21 Exclusive: Man at Center of Shaq Lawsuit Explains Why He's Suing
Shawn Darling outlines his history with Shaq, why he helped Shaunie and more
Shaquille O'Neal may be retired from the NBA but his name has remained in the headlines due to some pretty explosive emails. To understand the origin of the emails one has to wade through a very complicated tale of extramarital affairs, scorned mistresses, divorce and … an IT guy?
While we've heard about the steamy contents of O'Neal's private emails, the person at the middle of the lawsuit [click here to see the court documents], to whom the emails were originally released, has mostly shied away from the spotlight. Shawn Darling was an associate of O'Neal, enlisted to help the NBA star track his electronic communications with various women in hopes of protecting himself from any lawsuits.
Darling, whose credibility has been called into question due to a previous conviction of bank fraud in 1999, spoke with Loop 21 to tell his side of the story. He claims that his lawsuit for emotional distress and invasion of privacy isn't about money but to repair his reputation. In fact, Darling (who declined to have his image shown) is only seeking $45,000 in damages from the multimillionaire, who along with his friends in law enforcement allegedly tried to frame Darling as a pedophile by hacking into his computer to plant child pornography images.
Loop 21: In the lawsuit filed it states that you and O'neal were friends but you also were in his employ. When did you two meet and how did your association begin?
Shawn Darling: I actually met Shaquille's assistant when I was doing an install at Puffy's (Sean Combs aka "Diddy") house on Star Island. At the time Shaquille had just basically arrived in Miami. It was not until 2007 that our paths crossed again and I had done some work for his assistant. Shaq and Shaunie had separated and Shaquille needed his condo set up (A/V, PCs, etc). So I was hired to set it all up. Thanksgiving of that year I got a call from Shaq with some questions about the software I had installed on his systems. I was invited over, and our relationship grew from there.
Loop 21: At some point in 2008, O'Neal asked you to help him secure his email after Alexis Miller filed a restraining order against him, claiming he was stalking her. You help him do this but when his marriage to Shaunie O'Neal headed for divorce, you decided to turn over his emails to her legal team to help her case. Why?
Darling: The reason I did this was simple. There was a huge dispute over the fact that the kids told Shaquille that they did not want to move with him to Cleveland. This was a shock to Shaquille and he took it to a level that I felt was uncalled for. He cut off all the family financially and emotionally. He went close to two months without even speaking to the kids or Shaunie. My hosting of Shaquille's emails had been found out accidentally by a friend of Shaunie's. And when the cutoff happened, I was asked repeatedly to help her in any way I could. So I found a way to get the emails to her attorney without revealing myself to anyone.
Loop 21: What were some of the things that were talked about in the emails that you gave Shaunie that the public doesn't know about?
Darling: As much as I would love to answer this, I have been temporarily banned by the judge in my civil case from discussing the contents of the emails. But the first chance I get legally to do so, I will. I will only state that the emails will reveal a Shaquille that the public never knew existed. Since he does a majority of his communication via email and texts, one gets to see who he is as a person.
Loop 21: Once O'Neal found out that you provided the emails you claim he went on a smear campaign to discredit you, pointing to your previous arrest for bank fraud. What else did he do to tarnish your reputation?
Darling: He started the campaign soon after discovering in November of 2010 that I was the one who provided the emails to Shaunie. As for damaging, Shaquille seems to believe that by revealing my past transgressions, which lead to my incarceration over 10 years ago that he can cause people to doubt me credibility. The facts are this, yes I have been in trouble with the law in the past. The distant past! At the end of the day, that has nothing to do with the facts of the case. Shaquille and his co-conspirators' criminal behavior is trying to have a completely innocent man incarcerated for one of the most hated crimes in society. The only person's reputation that will be damaged when this is all over is his. [Editor's Note: In court papers provided to Loop 21, Darling's legal team details how O'Neal enlisted police officers to hack into his personal computers to plant child pornography.]
Loop 21: Very little has been reported on this lawsuit by the mainstream media. Why do you think O'Neal has been spared the bad press while so many other athletes are thrown to the lions over lesser charges?
Darling: That is the million-dollar question. My guess is he has been in the league so long that it is in the best interest of the NBA for him to maintain a good image. This goes back to the story that was leaked about his relationship with Laura Govan. There was some ... I'll just say suspicious activity around the meeting of the Wizards and the Cavs at that time. [Editor's Note: Govan is the on-again, off-again girlfriend and baby mother of Gilbert Arenas who played for the Washington Wizards when it was reported that she was having an affair with O'Neal then on the Cleveland Cavilers.]
Loop 21: From what is alleged in your lawsuit, it's clear O'Neal has connections to help protect himself. Does you think he believes he is invincible?
Darling: You mean the person who called himself Superman? What do you think?
Loop 21: This case has been in in court for months and will take a lot of time and money before it's resolved. You admit this has come with a great cost to you and your family. Would you do it over again, if you had the chance?
Darling: I absolutely would do it again. I never did it for any other reason than trying to even the playing field for Shaunie in court. I never liked bullies. Once he showed his bullying ways to me where I could see it for myself and not second-hand, word of mouth, I made a decision. Yes, I wish there had been a different outcome. Shaquille was someone at one point I considered a friend. It does not give me joy to reveal all of the things I know about him to the world. But his public accusations and false charges have forced me to go on the offensive. At one point I had acquiesced and left the situation. This was before the lawsuit, before the conspiracy. I was done and had decided to go my separate way. This was obviously not good enough for Shaquille and he decide he had to have revenge. He started this fight, I'm just finishing it.