Michael Cohen, former President Trump’s onetime fixer and lawyer, has admitted to a federal court that he was the source of fake case citations used to support his effort to end his supervised release from his earlier criminal convictions.
He blamed Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the error, he also seemed to throw his own attorney under the bus for not checking his work.
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman was a bit peeved when his clerks checked the authority cited by Cohen, including such cases as “United States v. Figueroa-Flores, United States v. Ortiz and United States v. Amato.” None existed.
In fairness, Cohen is not the first person to be burned by AI. Of course, critics have noted that the faux authority is perfectly consistent with Cohen’s legal career, which is a litany of misrepresentations and outright lies.
Cohen now says that the culprit is Google Bard, an AI service, and that he was only the latest victim of AI invention.
However, one of the most interesting aspects of the statement is that Cohen asks for understanding that he is only a layperson, not a lawyer.
He was, of course, disbarred as a lawyer after pleading guilty various federal crimes.
Cohen told the court:
“As a non-lawyer, I have not kept up with emerging trends (and related risks) in legal technology and did not realize that Google Bard was a generative text service that, like Chat-GPT, could show citations and descriptions that looked real but actually were not. Instead, I understood it to be a super-charged search engine and had repeatedly used it in other contexts to (successfully) find accurate information online.”
He then put part of the blame on his non-AI lawyer, David Schwartz, and emphasized that it was in the end Schwartz’ filing, not his:
“It did not occur to me then and remains surprising to me now—that Mr. Schwartz would drop the cases into his submission wholesale without even confirming that they existed. I deeply regret any problems Mr. Schwartz’s filing may have caused.”
Cohen’s current counsel E. Danya Perry, asked that his client “not suffer any collateral damage from Mr. Schwartz’s misstep.”
The problems with AI are well-known, but so is Cohen’s checkered history with the courts.
As I have previously written, Cohen has a long history of alleged lies and half-truths in dealing with the government or courts.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to various charges, including tax evasion, campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and several banks to obtain campaign financing and was sentenced to three years in prison.
He unsuccessfully sued Trump on the basis of a verbal contract that again put his own dubious veracity at issue.
As noted in earlier proceedings in Manhattan, Cohen has continued to misrepresent his criminal background and, after assuring the court that he was remorseful for his crimes, was regularly going on the air to deny that he committed tax fraud and suggesting that he was railroaded by prosecutors.
Prosecutors cited his numerous media appearances as containing false accounts of himself and his case: “while Cohen is free to write and say what he wants, he cannot simultaneously distance himself from his conduct on cable news, while cloaking himself in claims of acceptance of responsibility in court filings.”
I became a critic of Cohen long before he broke with the President. He was a disgrace to the bar for years and Trump bears equal blame for retaining such a person as his legal representative.
What Cohen lacked in legal skill, he made up for in a lack of ethical and professional standards.
In 2015, students on The Harvard Lampoon played a harmless prank on Trump by having him sit in the stolen “president’s chair” from the Harvard Crimson for a photo. Cohen threatened the students with absolute ruination. He was quoted by a student on the Lampoon staff as saying: “I’m gonna come up to Harvard. You’re all gonna get expelled. If this photo gets out, you’ll be outta that school faster than you know it. I can be up there tomorrow.”
On another occasion, after a journalist pursued a story he did not like, Cohen told the reporter that he should “tread very f—ing lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”
Cohen remained Trump’s loyal attack dog until he was arrested and Trump refused to pardon him. That is when Cohen proved that when you scratch a lawyer, you can find a foe.
Cohen has been gaming the system his entire career. He claimed urgent medical needs for release from prison. Of course, he previously claimed health problems in failing to appear to testify only to be spotted out on the town for a fancy dinner. Cohen previously (and implausibly) reinvented himself as a redemptive sinner and received financial support from Trump critics. He continued that pattern after his conviction.
Perry told Fox News Digital in a statement: “These filings—and the fact that he was willing to unseal them—show that Mr. Cohen did absolutely nothing wrong. He relied on his lawyer, as he had every right to do. Unfortunately, his lawyer appears to have made an honest mistake in not verifying the citations in the brief he drafted and filed.”
A federal court previously denied early release after prosecutors claimed that Cohen has reformed little and is still misrepresenting facts. Submitting fake case authority is obviously not ideal in claiming the status of a changed man.
The latest controversy is likely to be raised in the prosecution of Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg where Cohen is expected to be a key witness. The lack of authority, however, does not appear to be a detriment in that case which is pushing unprecedented legal claims. Time to call in the Google Bard?