David Kenner, a lawyer who unsuccessfully defended convicted Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, pleaded guilty on Friday to misdemeanor criminal contempt and was sentenced to one year of probation after admitting he leaked confidential material to reporters in 2023.
Federal prosecutors said Kenner was representing Michel in the federal conspiracy case over the rapper’s role in a multimillion-dollar government influence campaign that involved both the Obama and Trump administrations. After Kenner had been provided discovery materials in order to prepare for Michel’s defense, as is typical in criminal cases, and was ordered by the court to not share the contents, the attorney agreed to share the materials with two reporters from Bloomberg, prosecutors stated. While Kenner requested the reporters sign a protective order, which they did, the “members of the news media ripped Protective Order, in the presence of the Defendant,” shortly after.
Despite this, Kenner allowed an individual acting with his authorization to give the reporters access to a database holding the discovery materials, according to prosecutors, and in March 2023, they “published multiple articles containing information derived from the discovery materials.”
Kenner told the judge who sentenced him that it was a “low point” in his 56-year legal career. “Obviously, I made a terrible mistake,” Kenner said.
Michel’s spokesperson Erica Dumas said in a statement that although “Mr. Kenner argues that he was merely trying to mount the best possible defense for Pras Michel, his client, Mr. Kenner’s reckless actions crossed critical ethical lines, failed his duties as counsel, and ultimately have cost him dearly.” She added, “This plea conviction represents a breach of client trust that strikes at the heart of the attorney-client relationship.”
In April 2023, Michel was convicted of all 10 counts against him including money laundering, illegal lobbying, witness tampering, and campaign finance violations. As Rolling Stone previously reported, the charges against Michel were tied to his relationship with Malaysian financier Jho Low, who is accused of stealing $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund. Prosecutors claimed Michel pocketed millions from helping Low run foreign-influence campaigns against the U.S. government. (Low was named as a co-defendant in the case, but is currently a fugitive.)
Michel was accused of funneling money from Low to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, as well as lobbying Donald Trump’s administration to drop an investigation into Low and extradite dissident Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.
Michel’s new lawyers are seeking a new trial pending before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington.