In late 2009, Shawn Darling learned that Vanessa Lopez - the former mistress whom he and Shaunie O’Neal attempted to help go public about her affair with the NBA star - had gone “back to the well,” afraid that too much time had passed to sue Shaquille O’Neal for the harassment she claims occurred after their relationship ended.
Apparently, the basketball player was willing to take her back; and Vanessa was willing to give him information about the emails she was receiving. Darling was slightly protected by the alias he used to communicate with Lopez, but there was only a small list of people with access Shaq’s texts and emails, and Shawn was at the top of that list.
It wasn’t until December 2009 - a month after they had last seen one another - that Shaq finally called and left a message with Shawn, asking if they could talk. Darling declined, but later learned just how angry O’Neal was with him for sharing his emails with Shaunie and Vanessa.
Shawn claims that among the many texts and emails in his possession, there is proof that Shaquille O’Neal worked with various law enforcement officials to have him set up on charges of child pornography in an effort to not only discredit Darling, but to obtain the damning evidence contained on his computer that he says proves O’Neal’s guilt in the Vanessa Lopez case — evidence like video of Shaq tampering with Vanessa’s voicemail (“The stupid motherf**ker recorded himself doing it!”), and ordering one of his associates to harass her.
But why go to such lengths to cover it all up if Darling’s charges against O’Neal are, in fact, true?
“Shaquille’s the type to swat a fly with a sledge hammer, and he pulled out all the stops,” says Shawn. “Every piece that he would need to pull this off, he had.”
Darling says that the plot was planned so well that even his closest friends and family members wouldn’t have believed that he wasn’t guilty. But there was never any official investigation surrounding Shawn Darling, which he says only further proves his innocence, declaring that if the allegations of child pornography and extortion were true, he’d be “under the jail” right now.
“He took it to a whole other extreme cause I chose sides, and now you’re going to have me falsely set up for almost the most heinous thing anyone could ever be accused of and didn’t even blink an eye; like it was nothing.”
After discovering his plan to have him arrested, Darling reached out to Vanessa Lopez’s attorney for help. He had originally been contacted by her counsel through his anonymous email account, asking for his assistance with their case. At the time, Shawn wasn’t eager to help the woman who had essentially blown his cover, but now he didn’t know where else to turn.
Darling soon learned that going to him was the “worst thing I could’ve ever done.”
Once he heard his story, Shawn claims that the lawyer “got dollar signs in his eyes,” and immediately began negotiating with O’Neal’s attorney in a manner that Shawn says could have been construed as extortion; the same tactic he was using to handle Lopez’s case.
He later ended his relationship with the attorney after finding out what was going on. Lopez did the same, and the two eventually contacted one another and together approached high-powered attorney Gloria Allred about their cases against O’Neal.
“Her partner looks at me and basically says, ‘Okay, so let me get this straight - black guy, ex-con, extortion . We won’t be taking your case, we’re gonna take hers,’” recalls Darling of their meeting. It was that statement that Shawn says led him to decide that he would never help Vanessa Lopez with her case as long as she’s being represented by Allred.
“I will never be a part of enriching them,” says Darling, even if it means helping Shaquille O’Neal by default.
Without evidence from Shawn, Lopez’s case is at a virtual standstill, making the judge’s August 26 decision as important to Vanessa as it is to Darling.
So what’s next for Shawn Darling?
Regardless of the judge’s verdict on Friday, Darling says
that he doesn’t intend to settle his case. For him, it’s not about the money,
or trying to “destroy” Shaquille O’Neal. At this point, Darling claims that he
simply wants the public to take a good look at the facts: the emails, the
texts, the deposit slips, and O’Neal’s lawyer’s assertion that his story was
completely fabricated, to their insistence upon keeping the messages out of the
public record. In doing so, Shawn Darling hopes to be able to emerge from this scandal vindicated, and able to get his life back.
Tomorrow, the judge renders his verdict regarding the release of Shaquille O'Neal's private texts and emails.