Pras Michel, the ex-Fugees rapper who was convicted on foreign lobbying charges, has filed for a new trial, making a stunning assertion that his former lawyer, David Kenner, utilized an unverified artificial intelligence (AI) tool to construct closing arguments for his defense. Michel alleges that Kenner's actions were influenced by undisclosed financial interests in the AI platform, rather than focusing on his client's best interests.
Pras Michel faced charges in 2019 related to channeling funds from a fugitive Malaysian financier through straw donors to support Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. He was also accused of attempting to hinder a Justice Department investigation and influence an extradition case involving China during the Trump administration. Following a trial that included high-profile testimonies from individuals like actor Leonardo DiCaprio and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Michel was convicted on ten counts, including conspiracy, witness tampering, and failure to register as an agent of China.
In his pursuit of a new trial, Pras Michel's new legal team has leveled a series of accusations against his former attorney, David Kenner:
- Ineffective Counsel: Michel alleges that Kenner's representation was deficient, particularly pointing to a failure to object to damaging and inadmissible testimony during the trial.
- Outsourcing Preparation: The rapper claims that Kenner outsourced much of the trial's preparation to inexperienced contract attorneys.
- Unfamiliarity with Statutes: Kenner is accused of failing to familiarize himself with the charged statutes and required legal elements, leading to a flawed defense strategy.
- Overlooking Defenses: Michel contends that Kenner overlooked almost every potential defense, leaving crucial opportunities unexplored.
- AI Tool Misuse: Perhaps the most remarkable allegation is that Kenner utilized an experimental AI program for the drafting of closing arguments. The use of this AI tool is said to have led to legal errors, including conflation of separate allegations against Michel. The defense team claims this decision was harmful rather than helpful to the case.
Pras Michel's new legal team has gone further, suggesting that Kenner had an undisclosed ownership stake in EyeLevel.AI, the AI tool's developer. They argue that Kenner's use of the program during Michel's trial created an extraordinary conflict of interest, with a focus on promoting a product rather than providing competent and vigorous defense. They assert that the AI program's use was detrimental, and Kenner's closing argument was unhelpful, damaged the defense, and missed crucial legal arguments.
Pras Michel's quest for a new trial has brought to light a unique case involving the alleged use of an unproven AI tool by his former attorney. This has raised concerns about conflicts of interest and the implications of employing AI in legal defense. The legal battle continues, with the court set to consider these extraordinary claims in the coming months. The case underscores the evolving role of technology in the legal field and the ethical questions it may raise in the pursuit of justice.