A Principal, an Athletic Director, and an AI: A Recipe for Disaster


by Jeff Childers

Finally, some great news this week illustrated my theme that AI — and especially digital deepfakes — will ultimately upend most of what we currently rely on as evidence in our court system. Breitbart ran the remarkable, only-in-2024 story under the headline, “Police: Maryland High School Athletic Director Arrested for Framing Principal as Racist Using AI.

What happened was in December and January, Pikesville Athletic Director Dazhon “D.J.” Darien searched the internet for AI tools. Investigators later figured out the unclever educator used the tools to make a fake vocal recording using school computers. He took a voice sample from Principal Eric Eiswert and made a fake recording of Eric ranting in a highly-offensive racist and antisemitic manner.

D.J. then emailed the fake recording — using his own school email account — to another teacher, Shaena Ravenell, who sent it to media and the NAACP.

When the recording came out, the Baltimore school district promptly fired Principal Eiswert, who was subjected to intense public backlash, death threats, and so on. To this day, Eric has police guarding his home due to the harassment and threats against his family. The entire school was upended in controversy. PHS had to increase its police presence on campus to keep order.

But after an investigation, on Wednesday police issued a warrant for D.J.’s arrest. D.J. tried to flee, but he was caught Thursday morning at BWI Airport while trying to board a flight to Houston. Bizarrely, the reason D.J. was caught was because he was trying to check his gun, and airport security ran a routine search and saw the outstanding warrant.

“We now have conclusive evidence that the recording was not authentic,” Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough announced during a Thursday press briefing. “It’s been determined the recording was generated through the use of artificial intelligence technology.”

Principal Eric’s voice in the fake audio said horrible things like, “ungrateful black kids who can’t test their way out of a paper bag,” and “If I have to get one more complaint from one more Jew in this community, I’m going to join the other side.” D.J. even put a reference to himself in, having the fake recording say Eric wanted to fire D.J. and “drag his black ass out of here one way or another.”

D.J. was charged with disrupting school activities, theft, retaliation against a witness, and stalking. That sounds like only the beginning of his problems.

The innocent principal is now vindicated. The racist criminal athletic director is being properly punished. But the case raises profound questions about AI intruding into civil and criminal lawsuits.

State Attorney Scott Shellenberger told reporters this was the first case he knew of involving an AI-faked audio recording, and maybe the first of its kind in the entire nation. ”It seems very clear to me that we may need to make our way down to Annapolis in the legislature next year to make some adaptions to bring the law up to date with the technology that was being used,” he said.

Indeed. I agree with Shellenberger. If it’s not worse than useless already, digital evidence will soon be nothing but a distraction in court. Think about security camera video, for example. Given readily-available technology that a moron like D.J. can get hold of, how can anyone realistically prove that any digital security recording is real?

I saw this problem coming. Over the last four years, I’ve represented clients in at least six cases where my clients claimed their signature on a fake contract was copied from other documents and pasted onto the PDF. So far, judges have struggled with how to handle those types of claims but we’ve worked it out.

I could prove that kind of digital forgery occurred by finding the source document the signature was lifted from. Then it’s just a matter of showing the judge how the original signature perfectly matches the one on the allegedly fake contract. It works well when you are lucky enough to locate the original signature on the document the fraudsters lifted it from.

But now, AI can take the source signature and make a new, realistic looking copy that doesn’t perfectly match the original. I have no idea how we’ll prove those are fakes. And that’s just for signatures. I’m expecting to see fake signatures offered along with things like fake telephone recordings discussing the contract or even fake videos of the signing.

AI will inevitably blow a Titanic-sized hole in the law of digital evidence — which is most of the evidence people are admitting these days. Having given it a lot of thought, I suspect analog media might make a comeback. Things like rolls of film and super-8 video cassettes are much harder to fake than digital evidence. Buy stock in Kodak.* (* Not investment advice.)

And witness testimony will probably completely eclipse digital evidence. Back to Biblical standards. (Old Testament law required two eyewitnesses to sustain any prosecution.)

It’s a brave new world. I meant it when I said this story was good news. The outcome could easily have gone the other way, and this poor, innocent principal could have been railroaded on false hate crimes. But the prosecutors and investigators kept an open mind, and they tracked down the real crime.

And the best news is that, when digital evidence goes out the window, it will seriously hamstring the surveillance state.

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This case comes along just as “deep state” got caught admitting they could fake someone’s phone or computer history to add in p0rn, salacious photos, racist rants, etc.
No need to look for real acts or POVs that might cause a person to not run for office, just create fake histories.
We’re going to need experts in rooting out deep fakes.
And we’re going to have to punish the fakers enough to where it stops.
Welcome to the latest 21st century problems in law.

They will treat them like identity thieves, less than a tap on the wrist. Blame the victim that their security was not tight enough.

And, consider, this technology is in the hands of the DNC.