Fugees Rapper Blames Conviction on Lawyer's Use of AI

Prakazrel 'Pras' Michel says David Kenner hid personal stake in 'experimental' AI program
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2023 10:25 AM CDT
Fugees Rapper Blames Conviction on Lawyer's Use of AI
Lauryn Hill, Pras Michel, and Wyclef Jean perform during the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at Central Park in New York.   (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Prakazrel "Pras" Michel wants his April corruption conviction thrown out, partly because his high-profile defense attorney allegedly relied on artificial intelligence to deliver his final arguments. Accused of conspiring with Malaysian businessman Jho Low to funnel money to political campaigns through straw donors and attempting to influence the Trump administration to drop a case against Low, Michel, a member of hip-hop group the Fugees, was convicted in April of conspiracy, witness tampering, and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, per Politico. In a Monday filing, his new lawyers blame his old one, David Kenner, who's represented other hip-hop artists, including Snoop Dogg and Suge Knight.

At the end of Michel's trial, the Los Angeles-based lawyer admitted he "used an experimental artificial intelligence (AI) program to draft the closing argument, ignoring the best arguments and conflating the charged schemes," according to the defense team. Only later did Michel learn that "Kenner and his co-counsel appear to have had an undisclosed financial stake in the AI program," according to the filing. A May press release from a firm called EyeLevel boasts that its technology "made history last week, becoming the first use of generative AI in a federal trial." The release, which makes no mention of Michel's conviction, quotes Kenner as saying the program "turned hours or days of legal work into seconds" and is "an absolute game changer for complex litigation."

That was a "clear conflict of interest" and led to "prejudicial ineffective assistance of counsel," according to the filing. Michel "never had a chance." Seeking a new trial, Michel's lawyers from ArentFox Schiff also claim that two weeks before trial, "a member of Kenner's trial team was so alarmed by the state of Kenner's preparations and understanding of the case that he asked a law school classmate, a trial attorney in Miami, if he would fly to Los Angeles to help," per the Daily Beast. The lawyer was apparently stunned when Kenner "asked him to explain the money laundering statute to him." Kenner was also accused of leaking documents ahead of the trial. Michel, free on bond since 2019, has yet to face sentencing. (More Prakazarel "Pras" Michel stories.)

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