A founding member of the hip-hop group the Fugees has requested a new trial for a foreign influence scheme after arguing in part that his lawyer used artificial intelligence software to craft a “frivolous and ineffectual” closing argument.
In April, the rapper Prakazrel Michel was found guilty in federal court of orchestrating an illegal international conspiracy, in which he took millions of dollars from Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who was seeking political influence in the United States. Mr. Michel, known as Pras, was convicted on 10 criminal counts that included money laundering and witness tampering. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
In a motion for a new trial this week, Mr. Michel’s new legal team said the lawyers who defended him during the trial in U.S. District Court in Washington had been “deficient throughout.” They singled out the lead lawyer, David E. Kenner, saying that he had misunderstood the facts of the case and ignored “critical weaknesses” in federal prosecutors’ arguments, and that he used an experimental A.I. program to create a closing argument that made “frivolous” claims.
Mr. Michel’s lawyers also wrote that Mr. Kenner and another lawyer, Alon Israely, “appear to have had an undisclosed financial interest” in the program, EyeLevel.AI. The motion cited a news release from EyeLevel that mentioned a partner company, CaseFile Connect, the website of which lists the same Los Angeles address as Mr. Kenner’s law firm.
Mr. Kenner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. Neither Mr. Israely nor CaseFile Connect could be reached for comment.
Neil Katz, the founder and chief operating officer of EyeLevel.AI, said on Thursday that it was “categorically untrue” that the trial lawyers had had an undisclosed financial interest in the company. He added that neither CaseFile Connect nor the lawyers at Mr. Kenner’s firm had a financial stake in his company.
Regarding the role his company’s software played in the case, Mr. Katz said that it merely allowed the lawyers to conduct research and analysis in real time based on trial transcripts.
“The idea here is not that you would take what is outputted by a computer and walk it into a courtroom and read it into the record,” he said. “That’s not what happened here,”
“Human lawyers take this as one important input that helps them get to the ideas faster,” he added. “They ultimately write the legal arguments that they present in a court.”
The motion also took aim at the Justice Department and the federal court itself. It said government prosecutors had improperly used an F.B.I. agent at trial, “usurping the role of the jury and influencing the jury’s verdict.” It added that court had prejudiced the jury by ruling in front of them that Mr. Michel had conspired with others in the foreign influence scheme.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Thursday. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not immediately responded to requests for comment.
Erica Dumas, Mr. Michel’s publicist, said in a brief statement that his new legal team had identified areas of the case “where justice may not have been properly served.”
“After careful examination of the facts and circumstances around Pras Michel’s previous trial, it has become evident that there were inconsistencies and errors in the case,” she said. She did not elaborate and declined to comment further.
It was unclear whether the motion would be granted.