How Dallas Austin Dodged Jailtime in Dubai
Tue, 11 Jul 2006 08:42:22
Atlanta-based producer Dallas Austin was set to serve a four-year prison sentence in Dubai for carrying 1.26 grams of cocaine and a bit of Ecstasy into the country, en route to Naomi Campbell's birthday party. Instead of serving his time, though, Austin was pardoned and sent back to the States with only a friendly reminder to never come to Dubai again. So why is Austin a free man when you, in the same circumstance, would be spending the next four years familiarizing yourself with the intricacies of the Dubai prison system?
Simple: Never underestimate the power of a celebrity's homies, especially when one of the homies is Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. Austin has produced albums by Madonna and TLC, but Hatch's helping hand didn't come because he was a fan; instead, it just so happened that the producer and the far-right senator share an attorney (Joel Katz). Hatch dialed up the United Arab Emirates' consul in Washington, offering his support to Austin, who had already spent two months in jail. Hatch, an unlikely advocate of reforming harsh drug laws in the States, later issued a statement saying that he "is confident that this talented young man will learn from his experience."
Hatch was assisted by Lionel Richie, who apparently remains a sizable star in the Middle East. When the UAE called on Richie to be a character witness for Austin, he didn't hesitate. "I said, 'Listen, this is a great guy,'" Richie said. "He's done a great job for the community. A gangster, a hoodlum, a thug, he's not." Producer Quincy Jones also contacted officials in the UAE to vouch for the 35-year-old Austin, to whom Q had once served as a mentor.
"This unfortunate experience has had a profound effect on me, and I regret any grief caused to my family, friends and business associates," a statement from Austin read.
Perhaps the proximity to Austin, Richie and Jones will send Senator Hatch back to the recording studio, where he has found some success with tracks like "My God Is Love" and "America United" -- which would be perfect on a mixtape alongside John Ashcroft's "Let the Eagle Soar."
--The ARTISTdirect Staff