Michael Cohen accidentally gave his lawyer fake citations, court filing says

Michael Cohen, the former attorney and fixer for ex-president Donald Trump, said in a newly unsealed court filing that he accidentally gave his lawyer fake legal citations that were made up by an artificial intelligence program.

In a sworn declaration made public on Friday, Cohen told a Manhattan judge that the sham citations had been generated by the AI program Google Bard, and had made their way into his lawyer’s filing because of a pair of misunderstandings – including his failure to realize that the information spat out by the program was not based in reality.

The false citations were included in a late November filing from Cohen’s attorney as part of a request for an early end to court supervision. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion and campaign finance violations, served time in prison and wants the court to end court supervision based on his time served and compliance with the conditions of his release.

“As a non-lawyer, I have not kept up with the 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,” he wrote the court in a sworn statement.

Cohen, who was disbarred in 2018 following his felony conviction, stated that he submitted the citations to his lawyer, David Schwartz, believing them to be true, but expected Schwartz to verify their accuracy. Instead, Schwartz submitted them without fact-checking them, Cohen said. “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,” he wrote.

That happened, Cohen said, because of a miscommunication: that Schwartz was under the impression that Cohen had brought another attorney on to the case, and seemingly assumed that the citations had come from her. That lawyer, Danya Perry, is now serving as Cohen’s lawyer on the case.

This admission came after the judge overseeing Cohen’s case, Jesse Furman, said in mid-December that he could not find any of the decisions Schwartz had cited and demanded an explanation, while warning about possible sanctions against him.

In the filing, Cohen asks for leniency for his former lawyer, asking the court “to exercise its discretion and mercy in this matter” and calling Schwartz’s bogus submission an “honest mistake”.

Cohen turned on Trump years ago, and is expected to serve as a star witness in the Manhattan criminal case against him; this admission could be used against him in that trial.

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