NewsLocal News

Disgruntled ex athletic director allegedly created AI racist rant to retaliate against Pikesville principal

Arrested while trying to fly out of BWI
Pikesville Remarks
Posted at 12:16 PM, Apr 25, 2024

BALTIMORE — AI strikes again.

This time prosecutors say it was used as retaliation to frame a Baltimore County high school principal.

Now the former athletic director is being charged with reckless endangerment and disrupting school activities.

Dazhon Darien is accused of using Artificial Intelligence tools to impersonate the voice of Pikesville High principal, Eric Eiswert.

He was arrested Thursday while trying to board a flight at BWI Airport to Texas. Police say a gun was flagged in his luggage.

Charging documents say Darien made a simulated recording of Eiswert's voice, making it sound like he was spewing racial and antisemitic insults about staff and students.

One of the fake recordings said Black students couldn't "test their way out of a paper bag." Other comments were directed at parents of Jewish students.

Investigators linked Darien to a Gmail account, under the alias TJ Foust, which he allegedly used to send the phony recording to his own work email and other teacher friends at the school.

Despite knowing Darien's involvement, one teacher sent the clip to a student who rapidly spread it on social media and throughout the school community. This teacher later used her old college email address to get the word out to the media and NAACP.

MORE: Baltimore County schools investigating alleged racial, antisemitic remarks by principal

Many blamed Eiswert during the fallout, leading to outrage from local leaders including County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Schools Superintendent Myriam Rogers.

"Hate, discrimination, and prejudice have no place in our community — especially in our schools," Olszewski initially said in response."

"We will not tolerate disparaging remarks about any member of the Team BCPS community," added Rogers.

The audio clip triggered hateful messages swirling on social media, and threatening calls being made to the school.

Eiswert ended up being removed from his position as the investigation played out. Officials confirmed Thursday he would not return for at least the remainder of the school year.

Billy Burke, Executive Director of The Council of Administrative & Supervisory Employees, quickly questioned the audio's authenticity, while also defending Eiswert's character, describing him as "an outstanding school leader." Others also came to his defense while speaking with police.

At the time, Burke asked for "a pause in any rush to judgment."

Eiswert personally denied responsibility for the clip, telling investigators he believed Darien to be the culprit.

"There had been conversations with Darien about his contract not being renewed next semester due to frequent work performance challenges," charging documents read. "Eiswert reiterated that there had been issues starting in the latter part of 2023 between Darien and himself leading up to the release of the audio clip."

One such issue came up in December 2023 when Darien allegedly authorized his roommate, a junior varsity basketball coach at Pikesville High, to be paid $1916, falsely claiming he helped coach the girls soccer team.

During an interview with detectives, Darien admitted to "having issues" with Eiswert since he was employed.

Darien also confessed to sending the recording from his work email to someone he "shouldn't have," but denied knowing a TJ Foust or having any further involvement in creating or disseminating the clip.

However, police found Darien's phone number listed as the recovery contact for the TJ Foust account.

School tech staff also noticed Darien used their network on three separate occasions to search the internet for OpenAl tools.

"Darien had used Large Language Models (LLMs), such as OpenAl and Bingchat before the recording was released," detectives wrote in charging documents.

SEE ALSO: All it takes is one sentence for AI to clone your voice

Investigators sought the opinion of two AI experts who listened to the clip.

The first concluded "the recording contained traces of Al-generated content with human editing after the fact, which added background noises for realism."

The second expert suggested "the recording was manipulated, and multiple recordings were spliced together using unknown software."

Earlier this year, WMAR-2 News independently spoke with an AI expert, who told us it only takes seconds for a person's speaking voice to be replicated.

Teachers at Pikesville High have since "expressed fears that recording devices could have been planted in various places in the school," according to charging documents.

"This audio clip being released placed Eiswert and his family at significant risk of harm from others," detectives explained as their reasoning for filing charges. "The content of the recording fueled significant emotions from members of the public."

Darien has since been released on a $5,000 unsecured bond.