Judge won't sanction Michael Cohen for citing fake cases in AI-generated legal filing

Michael Cohen will not face sanctions after he cited fake legal cases in a court filing generated by artificial intelligence, a federal judge said Wednesday.

Cohen, former President Trump’s onetime fixer and lawyer, had pleaded guilty to tax and campaign finance violations and is currently under supervised release. He has repeatedly sought to have his sentence reduced, and in his most recent attempt, Cohen provided his attorney with fabricated case citations he later admitted were generated by Google’s AI chatbot, formerly known as Bard.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said the false citations were “embarrassing and certainly negligent” in a 13-page order that denied Cohen’s fourth motion for early termination of supervised release. But the judge found that Cohen, who had said he misunderstood how AI works and did not intend to cite fake cases, had not acted in “bad faith” and that neither he nor his lawyer, David Schwartz, should be sanctioned.

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Michael Cohen says he unwittingly passed along to his attorney bogus artificial intelligence-generated legal case citations he got online before they were submitted to a New York judge. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

“The Court has no basis to question Cohen’s representation that he believed the cases to be real,” Furman wrote. “Indeed, it would have been downright irrational for him to provide fake cases for Schwartz to include in the motion knowing they were fake — given the probability that Schwartz would discover the problem himself and not include the cases in the motion (as he should have) or, failing that, that the issue would be discovered by the Government or Court, with potentially serious adverse consequences for Cohen himself.”

Cohen said in his sworn declaration released in December that he had found the phony citations through Google Bard, an AI service that he said he thought was a “supercharged” search engine.

“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,” Cohen said. “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.”

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty totax evasion, campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, spending more than a year in prison before he was put on supervised release. He was also disbarred as a lawyer.

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The Google AI logo is displayed on a smartphone with Gemini in the background. (Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Cohen’s latest motion to terminate his supervised release argued there had “been a substantial change in circumstances” from his last following his testimony in Trump’s Manhattan civil fraud trial. Cohen had testified that during his time at the Trump Organization, he inflated the former president’s assets to “whatever number Trump told us to.”

Schwartz told the court that Cohen had “endured two days of grueling cross examination” and that his “widely publicized” testimony showed his client’s “willingness to come forward and provide truthful accounts of his experiences.” Schwartz said that by testifying against Trump, Cohen had “demonstrat[ed] an exceptional level of remorse and a commitment to upholding the law that cannot be denied by this Court or the United States Attorney General.”

But contrary to what Schwartz had argued, Judge Furman said Cohen’s testimony was “reason to deny his motion, not grant it.”

“Specifically, Cohen repeatedly and unambiguously testified at the state court trial that he was not guilty of tax evasion and that he had lied under oath to Judge Pauley when he pleaded guilty to those crimes,” Furman wrote.

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Michael Cohen’s fourth attempt to have his sentence for tax and campaign finance crimes reduced was rejected by a federal judge. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

“This testimony is more troubling than the statements that Cohen had previously made in his book and on television — statements that the Court had specifically cited in denying Cohen’s third motion for early termination of supervised release… because it was given under oath.”

The judge said Cohen lied under oath either when he pleaded guilty to tax crimes or in the October 2023 testimony. “Either way, it is perverse to cite the testimony, as Schwartz did, as evidence of Cohen’s ‘commitment to upholding the law.'”

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“At minimum, Cohen’s ongoing and escalating efforts to walk away from his prior acceptance of responsibility for his crimes are manifest evidence of the ongoing need for specific deterrence,” Furman wrote.

Cohen’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fox News Digital’s Brie Stimson contributed to this report.

Chris Pandolfo is a writer for Fox News Digital. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ChrisCPandolfo.

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