School Athletic Director Allegedly Tried to Frame Principal for Crime Using AI-Generated Voice

While under investigation for allegedly mishandling school money, a former athletic director allegedly used AI to create audio of the principal making racist remarks

<p>Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service/Getty</p> Pikesville High School in Baltimore County, Maryland

Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service/Getty

Pikesville High School in Baltimore County, Maryland

Baltimore County Police announced Thursday that authorities arrested a former high school athletic director who is accused of using an AI-generated voice to frame the school’s principal of saying racist comments.

At a press conference Thursday, Baltimore County Chief of Police Robert McCollough said Dazhon Darien, 31, was arrested earlier this morning while trying to board a flight with a firearm.

After Darien was stopped by officers with the Maryland Transportation Authority, authorities soon found he had an active warrant out for his arrest and took him into custody.

The former school athletic director has been charged with disrupting school activities, theft, retaliating against a witness, and stalking, McCollough said. The former Pikesville High School athletic director is being held on a $5,000 bond.

Authorities allege that Darien had programmed Principal Eric Eiswert’s voice to say anti-semitic remarks in an audio clip he later spread on social media, The Baltimore Banner first reported Thursday morning.

“The audio clip ... had profound repercussions,” the police’s charging documents read, according to the outlet. “It not only led to Eiswert’s temporary removal from the school but also triggered a wave of hate-filled messages on social media and numerous calls to the school. The recording also caused significant disruptions for the PHS staff and students.”

McCollough said Thursday that investigators found “conclusive evidence that the recording was not authentic” and that two forensic analysts found the recording was generated through the use of artificial intelligence.

Darien allegedly used school computers to search for the AI audio technology, McCollough added.

Investigators also said they tied Darien to an email connected to the social media account that initially shared the AI-generated audio clip, which led to Eiswert stepping away from his duties as principal amid fierce backlash at the school and within the local community.

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McCollough told reporters that police believe Darien leaked the fake audio "to retaliate" against Eiswert, who placed Darien under investigation earlier this year for allegedly mishandling school finances.

According to The Banner, Darien was under investigation after he issued a nearly $2,000 payment to the school’s junior varsity basketball coach, who is also his roommate.

Darien allegedly bypassed typical payroll procedures to approve the payment, which was made out to the coach for also serving as an assistant girl’s soccer coach. However, the individual was reportedly not an assistant coach for the team.

WBAL-TV reported that the audio clip led to stiff backlash against Eiswert at the time and forced him to step away from his duties as principal while the clip was being investigated.

The principal required police presence at his home and had received threatening messages after the fake audio spread online, according to The Banner.

“The school leadership expressed that staff did not feel safe, which required an increase in police presence at the school to address safety concerns and fears,” police also said, according to the outlet.

Documents reviewed by PEOPLE show Darien and Shaena Ravenell, an English teacher who allegedly helped spread the falsified audio among students at the school, submitted their resignations to the school board earlier this month.

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