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Saturday, July 08, 2006

I got the hookup

Left, Nick Wass/Associated Press; right, Erik S. Lesser/The New York Times

For a Music Maker in Hot Water, Help From Friends in High Places
Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: July 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES, July 7 — Although collaborations happen all the time in pop music, they do not generally involve R & B hitmakers and Senator Orrin G. Hatch.

But the release of a music producer from a Dubai jail this week, quick on the heels of his conviction for drug possession, turns out to be a story of high-level string-pulling on the part of Mr. Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican and songwriter, along with Lionel Richie, the singer; Quincy Jones, the music entrepreneur; and an array of well-connected lawyers, businessmen and others, spanning cities and continents.

Dallas Austin, 35, who has produced hits for Madonna, Janet Jackson and others, flew home to Atlanta on Wednesday, after being released after midnight on Tuesday from a holding cell in a Dubai jail. Hours earlier Mr. Austin had been sentenced to four years in prison for carrying just over a gram of cocaine with him when he entered the country on May 19 to attend a birthday celebration for Naomi Campbell.

Senator Hatch made numerous phone calls on Mr. Austin's behalf to the ambassador and consul of the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington — Dubai is one of the seven emirates — and served as an intermediary for Mr. Austin's representatives, the producer's lawyers said.

"The senator was one of a number of people who were very actively involved," said Joe Reeder, the Washington lawyer, who, with an Atlanta colleague, Joel A. Katz, spent 10 days in Dubai working to secure Mr. Austin's reprieve.

Mr. Katz, an entertainment lawyer, represents both Mr. Austin and the somewhat less musically successful Mr. Hatch, a singer and songwriter who has recorded religious-oriented albums. After hiring Mr. Katz's firm, the senator last year took in $39,092 in income from music publishing, according to financial documents filed in May under the Ethics in Government Act.

The senator declined to be interviewed or to confirm details of his efforts on Mr. Austin's behalf, but he issued a statement acknowledging his involvement and said he was asked by Mr. Austin's lawyers to help.

A spokesman for Mr. Hatch said that the senator was a proponent of rehabilitation for drug offenders, and that he had worked to revise federal sentencing guidelines regarding cocaine, and, through legislation in 2005, had advocated treatment for nonviolent offenders and the easing of restrictions on medication to treat heroin addiction.

In the statement Mr. Hatch said he was "confident that this talented young man will learn from this experience." He did not say if he requested that Mr. Austin seek treatment.

Until word of the pardon came through in a call to the One and Only Royal Mirage hotel along the Dubai beach, where Mr. Austin's lawyers waited nervously for news of their client's fate, the release of Mr. Austin was not a certainty.

"This involved multiple ambassadors, a prime minister, a prince, Lionel Richie, the senator and religious leaders in Atlanta," Mr. Reeder said.


Dolla dolla bill y'all

The rich are different than you and me: they get away with drug crimes.

posted by Steve @ 12:37:00 AM

12:37:00 AM

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