Deion's son Shilo Sanders facing legal mess after filing for bankruptcy

Colorado football safety Shilo Sanders has been facing questions in court about his personal income and wealth after filing for bankruptcy last October with more than $11 million in debt, according to court records obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

The debt stems primarily from what a court in Texas says he owes to a security guard at his former school − a man who claimed Sanders assaulted him in 2015 and gave him severe and permanent injuries, including "neurological injuries and damage to his cervical spine." The security guard, John Darjean, sued Sanders for damages from this incident and won a $12 million judgment against him after Sanders failed to show up for trial in 2022.

Sanders, son of Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, filed for bankruptcy as a result in an effort to discharge this debt. But Darjean is still trying to collect on his judgment against Sanders and has raised questions in court about Shilo Sanders’ earnings from name, image and likeness (NIL) deals in college.

“Shilo is the honest but unfortunate debtor looking to get his fresh start in life, free from the oppressive burden of his debts, including the default judgement to the Plaintiff,” Shilo Sanders’ attorney wrote in a court filing in February.

The University of Colorado declined comment and said that Shilo and Deion Sanders declined comment as well.

Colorado's Shilo Sanders during a game in October 2023.
Colorado's Shilo Sanders during a game in October 2023.

What happened in 2015?

The incident in question also was the subject of a report Friday by Westword in Denver. It happened when Sanders was 15 and attending Triple A Academy in Dallas where Darjean was employed as a security guard, according to court records. Darjean said in his lawsuit that Sanders was using a cell phone on school property during school hours when he was told not to do so. Darjean said Sanders physically assaulted him after Sanders refused his requests to turn over the phone.

"Suddenly and without warning, Shilo Sanders physically assaulted John Darjean by elbowing Mr. Darjean in the chest and neck and striking Mr. Darjean several times in the chest area and neck area," Darjean's lawsuit stated.

A court in Dallas County then basically accepted Darjean’s version of events without Shilo Sanders there to contest it.

“The Court finds that Shilo Sanders’ actions were the proximate cause of John Darjean’s injuries/damages,” said the final judgment signed by a Dallas County judge in May 2022. “The Court further finds that Shio Sanders actions were a substantial factor in bringing about the physical and mental injuries sustained by John Darjean, without which such injuries and damages would not have occurred.”

But Sanders has disputed Darjean’s version in subsequent court records. He said Darjean “cornered” him when he was talking to his mother on the phone. His attorney included witness statements in support of Sanders in a court filing.

“What I seen was the student didn’t want to give (Darjean) his phone so (Darjean) kept on asking for it,” one of those witness statements said. “Then (Darjean) reached for it and (Shilo) pushed the adult and (Darjean) began to push him and choked him. (Shilo) was yelling,`I can’t breathe,’ and was crying and yelling; and that’s when adults came over and pulled (Darjean) off of (Shilo).”

Why did Shilo Sanders lose his court case then?

He didn’t show up for trial, leading to a default judgment against him. His attorney said in court filings he wasn’t aware of the proceedings and didn't know about the judgment until 2023. Notices for it didn’t reach him or were sent to the wrong address, according to the court filings. He also didn't have an attorney representing him in the case at the time the trial notices were sent.

“In March 2022, a trial was convened in the State Court Case without Shilo’s knowledge or involvement,: his attorney explained in court filings. “Following the State Court convening the trial, a form of judgment was submitted by the Plaintiff and his workers’ compensation insurer and was entered by the state Court without any further notice, knowledge, or opportunity to present a defense by Shilo, including the existence of pre-existing substantial injuries resulting from the Plaintiff’s prior career as a (pro) baseball player. The total amount of the judgment was in excess of $11.8 million.”

What is going on in the case now?

Darjean is contesting the bankruptcy case filed by Shilo Sanders. He wants to get paid what the court says he is owed and has raised questions about where Sanders’ NIL money is going.

The bankruptcy filing in October said Sanders had $11.3 million in liabilities, including the court judgment against him. It also said Sanders had $478,000 in assets, including a 2023 Mercedes valued at $75,900 and necklaces valued at $75,000. His attorney then amended the value of his assets in December down to about $320,000 and removed the necklaces from the list of assets he owned, changing it to say he had $75,000 in necklaces that were on loan pursuant to an NIL deal with Saki Diamonds.

Darjean has alleged Sanders transferred NIL deals to his company, Big 21, LLC, as a way to hide them, according to court records. But Sanders' attorney said he didn't do anything wrong with that.

Sanders testified at a meeting of creditors that “all of the NIL agreements were with his company, Big 21, LLC, and all funds from those agreements went through the Big 21, LLC accounts,” Sanders’ attorney said in a court filing. “As the owner of the company, the Debtor (Sanders) received funds from the company, but the mere fact of receiving funds from the company does not create a transfer.”

Sanders’ attorney also stated Sanders “has taken no action to hide, transfer, destroy, or mutilate assets, either on a pre- or post-Petition Date basis, and even went so far as to voluntarily turnover over $210,000 to the (bankruptcy) Trustee without waiting for further order of the Bankruptcy Court, or even a stipulation for turnover.”

Shilo Sanders seeks a fresh start

Sanders, now 24, is entering his final college season at Colorado and was the team’s leading tackler in 2023. HIs bankruptcy filing said he had gross income of $193,713 in 2023 at the time of the filing in October. In 2022, when he played at Jackson State, it said he had gross income of $216,950.

"Given the size of the judgment and the fact that Shilo was an undergraduate college student looking towards graduate programs, the creation of a post-judgment receivership would have a permanent effect on his ability to start his life after graduation, and would likely result in the Debtor (Sanders) remaining subject to collection efforts from the Plaintiff for the rest of his life," his attorney wrote in the court filing from February. "As a result, the Debtor filed his voluntary petition for relief pursuant to Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to allow him to get a fresh start, free from the oppressive burden of his debts."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deion Sanders' son Shilo faces legal mess after filing for bankruptcy