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Lilly Price

The Baltimore Sun

April 25, 2024

Pikesville High School’s athletic director was arrested Thursday morning in connection with an artificial intelligence-made audio clip of the school’s principal having a fake, racist conversation.

Dazhon Darien, 31, is charged with disrupting school activities after Baltimore County Police say he created the falsified audio recording of Eric Eiswert in January. The audio clip using the principal’s voice went viral and was swiftly condemned by the Baltimore County community. The school was inundated with outraged calls and needed an increased police presence and additional counselors.

Maryland Transportation Authority Police arrested Darien as he was boarding a plane to Houston from BWI Marshall Airport. Law enforcement officers flagged Darien’s bag for the way he packaged a gun in his checked luggage and discovered he had an active arrest warrant.

Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough said police intended to serve the warrant Thursday. He didn’t know whether Darien was trying to flee or had travel plans.


Darien is also charged with theft, retaliating against a witness and stalking. He was released on a $5,000 bond from the Baltimore County Detention Center. He doesn’t have an attorney listed in online court records and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Scott Shellenberger, Baltimore County’s state’s attorney, said this is the first time his office has prosecuted a case related to AI, and one of the first his office could find in the country . State lawmakers will need to update criminal statutes to include the new technology next legislative session, he said.

“In this particular case, we obviously had some statutes that were right on point, but we do in fact need to take a look at some others,” Shellenberger said at a Thursday news conference. “[We] also need to take a broader look at how this technology can be used and abused to harm other people.” He added that the charge of disrupting school activities carries a sentence of only six months.

The recording included offensive statements made about Black teachers, Black students’ test scores and Jewish parents. Eiswert was removed from the school and required a police presence at his house due to online threats. He maintained his innocence through a union spokesperson,who did not respond to a request for comment.

Eiswert remains employed by Baltimore County Public Schools but will not return to Pikesville High this school year, Superintendent Myriam Rogers said at the news conference.She was joined by Shellenberger, McCullough, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and other county officials.

Baltimore County Police wrote in a 17-page charging document that Darien created the fake recording in retaliation for Eiswert investigating him for allegedly misusing school funds and theft. Eiswert also believed Darien had a grievance over his contract not being renewed and Eiswert reprimanding him for firing a long-term coach without approval, he told police.

In the recording, a man’s voice sounds as if he’s talking to someone named Kathy, whom many listeners interpreted to be Vice Principal Kathy Albert. She told police she never had the conversation in the clip.

The man’s voice in the recording says he has to “put up” with “ungrateful Black kids who can’t test their way out of a paper bag” and Black teachers who “should have never been hired.” The recording continues with the man saying he’s “sick of the inadequacies of these people” and if he “has to get one more complaint from one more Jew in this community, I’m going to join the other side.”

Three Pikesville High employees — Darien and two physical education teachers who police said were friends with him — received an email from an unfamiliar email address with the MP3 recording around 10 p.m. Jan. 16, about a half-hour before the clip went viral on social media, police wrote.

The recording named one of the PE teachers as someone who shouldn’t have been hired. When she received the email with the audio clip, she sent it to a student and emailed it to several media outlets, she told police. The student then “rapidly spread the message around various social media outlets and throughout the school,” police wrote.

The teacher told detectives she was having professional issues with Eiswert and was not renewing her contract to work at Pikesville High. Baltimore County’s school board last week received Darien’s and the two teachers’ resignations from Pikesville High.

In an interview with detectives, Darien denied involvement in the recording or its release. He said he was unfamiliar with the email that sent the recording to him. Over two months, detectives subpoenaed documents from Google, AT&T and T-Mobile that led to an internet provider address registered to Darien’s grandmother, police wrote in charging documents.

The recovery cellphone number associated with the Google account was registered to Darien, police wrote. The number has since been disabled. Detectives also consulted an FBI contractor and a forensic analyst, who said the recording “contained traces of AI-generated content with human editing after the fact,” such as background noise for realism.

A BCPS information technology employee searched Darien’s access to the system’s network and found that he used language tools and accessed OpenAI tools and Microsoft Bing Chat services that are similar to OpenAI three times — Dec. 18, Dec. 19 and Jan. 15, the last being a day before the audio clip was released.

A second expert opinion from a forensic analyst said the recording was manipulated with multiple recordings placed together, police wrote.

Rogers said the school system filed a recommendation to terminate Darien. School officials are investigating the two PE teachers, who are on leave. McCullough said the criminal investigation is ongoing.

The theft accusation, which Rogers says is ongoing, entails Darien allegedly paying his roommate, a junior varsity coach, $1,910 to be an assistant coach with the girls soccer team, something the roommate didn’t do.

In the wake of the recording, teachers feared that recording devices were planted in the school, which created a rift in trust between teachers and administrators, according to police.


Cindy Sexton, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, which represents athletic directors, said the union is waiting for the criminal investigation to unfold. TABCO and the National Education Association are troubled by AI being manipulated and used against educators, she said.

“As a society, we need to get in front of and get a handle on AI because of, unfortunately, situations like this are going to continue to happen,” Sexton said. “Our students are tech-savvy; lots of people are. It opens up a whole new world of concern for all of us. We all have our voices out there.”

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