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School principal was framed using AI-generated racist rant, police say. A co-worker is now charged.

Maryland athletics director charged with AI-generated impersonation of principal
Maryland athletics director charged with AI-generated impersonation of principal 03:02

BALTIMORE -- A former high school athletic director was arrested Thursday morning after allegedly using artificial intelligence to impersonate the school principal in a recording that included racist and antisemitic comments about individuals at the school. 

One-time Pikesville High School employee Dazhon Darien is facing charges that include theft, stalking, disruption of school operations and retaliation against a witness.

Investigators determined he faked principal Eric Eiswert's voice and circulated the audio on social media in January. Darien's nickname, DJ, was among the names mentioned in the audio clips he allegedly faked, according to the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office.

Baltimore County detectives say Darien created the recording as retaliation against Eiswert, who had launched an investigation into the potential mishandling of school funds, Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough said on Thursday. 

Eiswert's voice, which police and AI experts believe was simulated, made disparaging comments toward Black students and the surrounding Jewish community. The audio was widely circulated on social media.

Baltimore County Police said Darien was at the airport trying to get on a flight to Houston when he was arrested.  He had a firearm on him at the time, according to police. 

"Mr. Darien was stopped because of the way his declared firearm was packaged when officers looked into his background they learned he had an open arrest warrant," McCullough said.

Race-based commentary

On the audio clip, a voice that mimicked Principal Eiswert made race-based commentary, including statements that African-American students were unable to "test their way out of a paper bag," according to charging documents.  

There were also comments about Jewish individuals and two teachers who "should never have been hired at the school."  Police said the recording depicted a phony conversation between Eiswert and one of the school's assistant principals.

The clip's viral circulation on social media had significant repercussions. Eiswert was temporarily removed from the school, and waves of hate-filled messages circulated on social media, while the school received numerous phone calls.

Recording's authenticity was questioned

After a meeting, Eiswert told police he believed the audio clip was falsified using AI.  According to charging documents, Eiswert told police that he believed Darien was responsible.  He said that Darien was "technologically savvy and believed he was familiar with AI," and that there had been conversations with Darien about his contract not being renewed the following semester due to frequent work performance challenges.

Interviews with multiple administrators at Pikesville High School revealed that Darien had multiple work-related issues since he began his role as athletic director in July 2023.  Police said Darien had been reprimanded for terminating a long-standing coach at the school without approval. 

Investigators say Darien had accessed the school's network multiple times in December and January, performing online searches for OpenAI tools - which police linked to paid OpenAI accounts.  

A forensic analyst and university professor contracted by the FBI conducted an audio analysis of the file. The results determined that the recording contained traces of AI-generated content, with human editing that added background noises for realism after the fact, according to the charging documents. Another expert at the University of California, Berkley, analyzed the audio and also determined that it was manipulated. 

Response from school leadership

"As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult time for Pikesville High School community, principal Eiswert and his family, and team BCPS. We are incredibly proud of the students and staff and how they have stepped up to support one another," Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dr. Myriam Rogers said.  "As I said then, and it bears repeating, the statements on the recording do not reflect the core values of our system."

Rogers added that the county is taking "appropriate action" following Darien's arrest, "up to and including a recommendation for termination."

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