Baltimore high school teacher arrested over deepfake racist audio of principal

Pikesville High School
[Getty Images]

A Maryland high school teacher has been arrested for allegedly using AI to deepfake a bogus recording of his principal making racist comments.

Dazhon Darien, 31, is accused of creating the hoax audio of Pikesville High School Principal Eric Eiswert.

Mr Eiswert was placed on leave and had police outside his home amid death threats he received over the fake clip.

Mr Darien was held at an airport after a security check over a gun in his bag found an arrest warrant against him.

He faces charges of stalking, theft, disruption of school operations and retaliation against a witness.

Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Myriam Rogers said the school, as well as the Baltimore County Police Department, launched an investigation on 17 January when they were made aware of the voice recording.

Detectives requested a forensic analysis of the audio, which found it was not authentic.

In the recording, Mr Eiswert's deepfaked voice is heard making disparaging comments about black students' test scores, black teachers and Jews.

Police believe Mr Darien, the Baltimore-area school's athletic director, made the recording to retaliate against Mr Eiswert because he was pursuing an investigation into potential mishandling of district funds.

Mr Darien had authorised a payment of nearly $2,000 (£1,600) to his roommate, falsely claiming the roommate was an assistant coach for the Pikesville girls' soccer team, reports the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

According to investigators, Mr Darien used school district internet to search for artificial intelligence tools, including Microsoft's Bing Chat and OpenAI.

In mid-January, he sent an email with the subject line "Pikesville Principal - Disturbing Recording" to himself and two other employees at the high school, said police.

Once the recording went viral online, the school received furious calls from parents and students.

Baltimore Police Chief Robert McCollough said Mr Darien was arrested at Baltimore international airport, where he was about to board a flight to Houston, Texas.

Officials stopped him because of the way his declared firearm was packed in his checked luggage and found an open arrest warrant when searching his name, Chief McCollough said.

The Baltimore County Schools superintendent said officials are taking appropriate action following Mr Darien's arrest, including a recommendation for termination.

She said it had been "a very difficult time" for the school, the principal and his family.

Mr Darien was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond on Thursday afternoon. He could not be reached for comment.