A newly filed brief demanding a retrial for Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, the convicted Fugees hip hop star, alleges that his lead defense lawyer, David Kenner, relied on an experimental AI program to draft his closing argument in Michel’s high-profile criminal trial last spring. Michel’s new legal team from ArentFox Schiff contends that Kenner’s use of this AI-generated closing argument was a severe misstep that negatively impacted the outcome of the trial.
According to the brief, Kenner’s AI-generated closing argument was characterized as “frivolous” and fraught with errors. It purportedly failed to address critical aspects of the case, misinterpreted necessary elements, and conflated various schemes. Michel’s new legal counsel argues that this improper reliance on AI compromised the single most crucial portion of the trial.
The brief points out that Kenner did not respond to inquiries about these allegations. Furthermore, his co-counsel, Alon Israely, failed to provide a response when contacted via LinkedIn.
In Michel’s trial, he was convicted on federal charges of conspiring with fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low in three alleged lobbying schemes aimed at influencing two U.S. presidential administrations. Michel’s new legal team argues that Kenner’s defense was inadequate, partially due to his use of an AI program called EyeLevel.AI to craft the closing argument. This complex, politically charged case featured testimony from prominent figures like Leonardo DiCaprio and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The brief asserts a more egregious aspect of this situation: Kenner and Israely seemingly had undisclosed financial interests in a company known as CaseFile Connect, which was a technology partner to EyeLevel.AI. The ArentFox brief suggests that Kenner and Israely may have used Michel’s trial as a platform to promote CaseFile Connect, benefiting themselves at Michel’s expense.
As of now, CaseFile Connect has not responded to inquiries made through its website.
A declaration accompanying the brief from ArentFox partner Peter Zeidenberg, a former Justice Department political corruption prosecutor, explains that they learned of Kenner’s use of an AI program for the closing argument from Michel’s former publicist, who conveyed this information after the trial. A subsequent investigation revealed a press release by EyeLevel.AI issued on May 10, which claimed “the first use of generative AI in a federal trial.” The release quoted Kenner, who praised the AI program’s ability to expedite legal work.
In response to these claims, EyeLevel.AI stated that Kenner and Israely did not have a financial stake in their program. They emphasized that their AI technology is a tool to assist human lawyers in making decisions more efficiently by providing a wealth of information from court transcripts.
ArentFox noted that CaseFile Connect and Kenner’s law firm listed the same office suite in Encino, California, as their primary address, and CaseFile Connect had an alternative address linked to Israely’s office in New York City. Although CaseFile Connect’s ownership was not disclosed on its website, this overlapping address information led ArentFox to conclude that Kenner and Israely had a financial interest in the AI program used for the closing argument.
The ArentFox team attempted to contact Kenner and Israely through their counsel, but both declined to engage in discussions with Michel’s new legal team regarding the trial.
In their motion for a retrial, ArentFox also argued that the trial was compromised because the judge, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington, D.C., allowed jurors to hear that she and another federal judge had already determined that Michel conspired with an alleged co-conspirator in the context of the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, thus affecting the jury’s impartiality.
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The brief cataloged various other shortcomings by Kenner, including outsourcing trial preparation to inexperienced contract attorneys at an e-discovery company co-founded by Israely, who lacks expertise in complex white-collar cases and lobbying regulations. This lack of preparation, the brief contends, hindered Kenner’s ability to cross-examine government witnesses effectively.