WASHINGTON D.C. – Grammy Award-winning artist Pras Michel’s pursuit for a retrial is embroiled in a legal battle as his current legal team seeks to discredit his former counsel’s competence in handling a white-collar trial. The rapper aims to overturn his April 2023 conviction, asserting that artificial intelligence (AI) influenced the defense strategy.
During a crucial evidentiary hearing on January 11, David Kenner, Michel’s former attorney with strong connections to the music industry, testified in a federal court in Washington D.C. The outcome of this hearing could potentially lead to a new trial that challenges the rapper’s conviction.
Expressing his support for a retrial, Kenner stated, “He deserves it.”
Michel was convicted in April on federal charges related to conspiracy and witness tampering in a lobbying campaign targeting two U.S. presidential administrations.
At the center of Michel’s appeal is the claim that Kenner’s closing argument was shaped by an AI program called “EyeLevel.” However, Michel’s current lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg, argues that the AI program only played a role in research and retrieval of relevant portions of witness transcripts.
Kenner’s former colleague, Alon Israel, clarified that the AI program provided basic answers akin to “law school 101.”
Questions also arose about Kenner’s qualifications to handle such a complex international case and his limited experience in dealing with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which was vital to Michel’s defense. Kenner admitted that the last time he worked on a FARA case was in 1988.
FARA, enacted in 1938, requires individuals and entities acting on behalf of foreign principals to register with the Department of Justice. It aims to promote transparency in activities that seek to influence U.S. policy or public opinion.
Michel’s current legal team, including Zeidenberg and former U.S. Senator Doug Jones, highlighted that his former lawyers allowed the prosecution to refer to Michel as a “co-conspirator,” thereby influencing public perception of his guilt.
Michel’s spokeswoman, Erica Dumas, commented, “Pras Michel’s legal defense clearly failed him in this complex FARA trial.” Dumas emphasized concerns about Kenner’s lack of specific expertise and the limited contribution of the AI consultant.
The final testimonies were concluded recently, and the judge is expected to make a decision in the coming days or weeks.
In summary, the legal proceedings for Grammy-winning artist Pras Michel intensify as his pursuit for a new trial continues. His current legal team challenges the competence of his former counsel and argues that AI influenced the defense strategy. Michel aims to overturn his April 2023 conviction on federal charges related to conspiracy and witness tampering. The judge is now considering the evidence presented during the hearing to determine the next course of action.