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Songwriter/Producer Dallas Austin Convicted, Sentenced, and Pardoned in Dubai

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In a whirlwind blow through the Dubai justice system on U.S. Independence Day, Grammy-grabbing R&B songwriter/producer Dallas Austin, 33, was convicted of possessing 1.26 grams of cocaine, sentenced to four years in prison, and pardoned by Dubai potentate Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – all on the same day.

The Atlanta-based Austin — who has written and/or produced earthy grooves for TLC (Ooooooohhh … On The TLC Tip, CrazySexyCool, Fanmail), Madonna (“Secret”), Gwen Stefani (“Cool”), Boyz II Men (Cooleyhighharmony), Michael Jackson (“This Time Around”), Janet Jackson (“Just a Litle While”), Pink (“Don’t Let Me Get Me”), Kelis (“Trick Me”), Sugarbabes (Taller In More Ways), Blu Cantrell (“Hit ‘Em Up Style”), Anastacia (“Left Outside Alone”); and who was executive producer of the 2002 film Drumline — was arrested at Dubai Airport for possession of cocaine on May 19 as he reportedly arrived to attend Naomi Campbell’s three-day birthday party marathon at the Burj Al Arab hotel.

Hey, if you are going to party for three days, a little toot is not an illogical condiment. But, apparently Austin was unaware of the United Arab Emirate’s (of which Dubai is a part) “zero-tolerance” drug policy, where possession of even a small amount of a banned substance typically leads to a four-year-plus prison sentence.

DallasAustin There was apparently much maneuvering behind the scenes as Austin cooled his heels in Al Rashidiya prison for the past seven weeks: UAE’s English-language 7DAYS paper reported yesterday, “American ‘VIPs’ have apparently been in touch with senior figures here to try to ensure lenient treatment for Austin.”

The paper claims the pardon was in place even prior to Austin’s trial, which began Sunday. This helps explain why the paper described Austin as “looking confident, at one point even appearing to wink at his lawyers,” as the charges were read against him.

When asked how he would plea, Austin said, “I’m guilty, but it was a mistake. I didn’t realize I had the drugs with me and I didn’t intend to use them here in the UAE.”

“He didn’t know that he was breaking the law here,” his local lawyer, Mohammad Al-Reda said. He added that it should also be taken into consideration that Austin is a “celebrity,” and has “done a lot of good things in America, he is a famous guy, and I’m pleading for mercy for the accused, especially as the crime’s motivation wasn’t wicked.”

I have very conflicted feeling about all this. On the one hand, I don’t much want to see Dallas Austin (or anyone else) go to prison for four years for carrying a gram of cocaine in his luggage. On the other hand, such obvious special treatment because the guy is a “celebrity” and has some large coin behind him makes a fair mockery of the notion of “rule by law.”

By way of example, in May a judge sentenced a British man to five years in jail for possessing 2.7 grams of cocaine, and last week a 31-year-old Saudi was sentenced to four years for 1.8 grams; but no one much cares about them.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Catherine Clements

    I don’t have any conflict regarding this. This is why other countries hate America. We have a blatent disregard and ignorance for any other culture and then use that as an excuse. He’s exactly what they mean when they refer to “ugly Americans”. I wish they had let him rot for four years – it would have given him time to read up on their culture.

  • Eric Olsen

    there is no question he was stupid – I think the 7 weeks in jail is probably a pretty good lesson – but of course the real issue is what happens to the people who don’t have his money or influence

  • L Estevez

    Its not because hes an American hes getting off, its because hes a rich American with powerful friends who dont care about local laws. He was not ignorant of the law, thats just the lawyer speaking. The US govt was not involved. Im sure a rich European with famous friends would also have gotten off facing the same charges. He should serve the time since he did the crime. Just as the article says, other people are serving time for the exact same offense.

  • Eric Olsen

    agreed, L, although I don’t think anyone should be serving anything close to that kind of time for simple drug possession

  • dana haslam

    To understand the way Dubai dealt with Dallas Austin you have to understand that this is a place that has sold out on its own culture and is desperate to attract western money (tourism etc). Their law is two tier – horrible prisons full to the brim with poor asians and others who are often victims of their corrupt legal “system”. They do anything to attract Z list celebs who can virtually do as they please.
    No worries with dope as long as long as you are rich, western and are prepared to say good things about the place!!

  • Joe

    Man he’s come a long way since. Done good with Beat Thang and now got his own software to show for it. http://btvsolostudios.com has him in a more technical frame and thinking outside the box for a record producer. Sincerely think he’ll do well once again too.