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Celeb Lawyer David Kenner Pleads Guilty To Leaking Documents In Fugees’ Prakazrel “Pras” Michel Case

BY Abena Dzaka February 1, 2024 7:13 PM EDT
Photo Credit: Getty Images

David Kenner, a well-known defense lawyer entered a guilty plea on Friday for leaking court information involving Fugees founding member Prakazrel “Pras” Michel to the media.

Kenner, who has represented A-list clients like Snoop Dogg, Tory Lanez, and Suge Knight, was given a year of unsupervised probation after entering the plea to a misdemeanor contempt of court charge. He consented to pay a $5,000 fine as well.

When David Kenner provided images and grand jury evidence to two writers for Bloomberg News for “defense-oriented” stories that aired in March 2023, just before the start of the Washington, D.C. trial, federal prosecutors claimed he was acting on behalf of Prakazrel “Pras” Michel.

As is customary in criminal cases, Kenner had access to evidence to help him prepare Michel’s defense, but prosecutors claimed that the court had given him an order not to disclose the information.

In court filings, David Kenner’s lawyer claimed that the reporters had first consented to sign a protective order but had since changed their minds. A representative for Bloomberg News declined to comment.

The 82-year-old David Kenner accused the judge who condemned him of recklessness for failing to take anything to stop the media from receiving information from the grand jury. It was a “low point” in his 56-year legal career, according to him.

Kenner admitted, “I obviously made a terrible mistake.”

In the end, Michel was found guilty on all ten charges, which included conspiring and working as an unregistered foreign government agent. On the most serious accusations, the Grammy-winning rapper could spend up to 20 years behind bars.

In this case, Michel is now advocating for a fresh trial. Peter Zeidenberg, his new lawyer, claims Kenner committed numerous mistakes. This involved employing an artificial intelligence algorithm to mishandle the closing arguments.

According to court filings, during the final arguments, Kenner misattributed a well-known line from a song by rapper Diddy to the Fugees. This was formerly billed as the first use of generative AI in a federal trial.

The maximum prison punishment for the crime, to which Kenner entered a guilty plea, is six months; however, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled that neither a jail sentence nor home detention was necessary. As per the conditions of his plea deal with prosecutors, he will serve his probation without supervision.

Mehta was first taken aback by the prosecution’s decision to accept a sentence without a fine. Mehta suggested that the maximum $5,000 fine permitted by the law might be added to the sentence as a “small but symbolic” increase.

One of the defense lawyers, Boss, stated that Kenner intended to step down following Michel’s trial. However, Boss claimed that because Kenner paid $1.4 million “out of pocket” for Michel’s defense, he is “extremely strained financially.”

According to a Michel spokesman, the conviction shows a betrayal of the client’s confidence. “Erica Dumas stated that although Kenner claims he was only attempting to put up the strongest defense for Pras Michel, his client, Mr. Kenner’s careless actions crossed crucial ethical lines, failed his duties as counsel, and ultimately have cost him dearly.”

Michel was accused of using straw donors to transfer funds from a Malaysian financier to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. He also allegedly attempted to sabotage an investigation by the Justice Department and sway an extradition case in favor of China during the Trump administration.

Kenner during the trial maintained throughout that Michel’s only goal in entering politics was to become wealthy, and that he received poor legal counsel in the process.