According to a newly filed brief, the primary defense lawyer for convicted Fugees hip-hop artist Pras Michel inappropriately relied on an experimental generative AI tool to create his closing argument in Michel’s high-profile criminal trial earlier this year. Michel’s new defense attorneys filed a motion seeking a retrial.
From the firm ArentFox Schiff, Michel’s new lawyer stated that the Fugees member’s previous lawyer, David Kenner, made a poor closing argument, stating that it was frivolous, misunderstood the necessary points, mixed up different schemes, and overlooked important weaknesses in the government’s case.
The attorneys also asserted the conduct of U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington, D.C., as a factor. According to the brief, Kenner made a mistake during Michel’s jury trial by using an experimental AI program to create his closing argument.
Michel was found guilty in April of conspiring with fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low in three lobbying schemes to influence U.S. presidential administrations.
“The AI program (EyeLevel) failed Kenner, and Kenner failed Michel,” the attorneys wrote in court documents this week. “The closing argument was deficient, unhelpful, and a missed opportunity that prejudiced the defense.”
According to court filings, Michel’s former attorneys also appeared to have a hidden financial interest in CaseFile Connect, a technology partner of EyeLevel.AI.
Michel’s attorneys also cited in the appeals request objections to Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s decision to allow jurors to hear prior conclusions made by herself and another federal judge. That information, disclosed in the context of the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, asserted that Michel conspired with an alleged co-conspirator to commit some of the crimes the government had charged.
According to the motion, the references, coupled with improper testimony from the lead case agent, allegedly compromised the jury’s impartiality, reducing them to being just a “rubber stamp.”
The court filing also highlighted Kenner’s alleged shortcomings, including an incident called the “AI closing argument fiasco.” Among the most concerning allegations is the assertion that Kenner, lacking expertise in complex white-collar cases or lobbying regulations, entrusted trial preparation to inexperienced contract attorneys at an e-discovery company co-founded by a longtime associate.
The filing contends that the inadequately prepared defense hampered Kenner’s ability to cross-examine government witnesses, effectively weakening the case. Michel faces as much as 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced. A date for sentencing hasn’t been set.
Meanwhile, Michel has reunited with his Fugees bandmates for a highly-anticipated reunion tour. The tour coincides with lead singer Lauryn Hill’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”
“I’ve almost felt compelled to carry a torch or to keep a light shining regarding the continual performance of the Miseducation album,” Hill said in a statement. “I believe there’s been a reason for that — and the Fugees coming back together for performances feels like unfinished business we’re destined to handle.”
Some of the Fugees’ most iconic hits include “The Score,” “Ready or Not,” “The Sweetest Thing” and “How Many Mics.”
Source: Washington Informer