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Sen. Hatch Helps in Release of R&B Producer

   |  Posted Jul 8th, 2006 @ 5:40pm


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Sen. Orrin Hatch, a successful songwriter with music industry ties, has confirmed he played a role in securing the release of Atlanta R&B producer Dallas Austin from a Dubai jail after a drug arrest.

In a statement released Saturday, Hatch, R-Utah, said he was contacted by Austin's attorneys -- one of whom formerly worked for the Utah Republican in Washington, D.C. -- and then called the ambassador and consul of the United Arab Emirates in Washington on Austin's behalf.

A Grammy-winner who has produced hits for Madonna, Pink and TLC, Austin was arrested May 19 and convicted of drug possession for having 1.26 grams of cocaine.

On Tuesday, a Dubai court sentenced him to four years in jail and said Austin, 34, should be deported after serving the term.

Hours later, Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum pardoned Austin, who was released.

Beyond saying Hatch has "good relations with the ambassador and other good people in Dubai," no specifics about Hatch's dealings with the Dubai government were released.

"We just don't go into the details of what we've done for any kind of case work, not just this one," Hatch spokesman Peter Carr told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Carr said he did not know if Hatch and Austin had ever met, but confirmed that both men employ Atlanta entertainment lawyer Joel A. Katz.

Katz, along with Washington D.C. attorney Joe Reeder, traveled to Dubai to try to secure Austin's release, according to The New York Times, which reported on the case in Saturday editions.

Carr said former Hatch staffer Nancy Taylor, who worked for the senator on health care issues until 1991, contacted the Hatch about Austin. Taylor now works with Reeder at the firm of Greenberg Traurig.

The Times story also said Hatch's help was enlisted because the senator's relationship with Dubai is seen as influential. Earlier this year, Hatch supported the Dubai-based DP World in its bid to manage several American ports.

In his statement, Hatch said he was "grateful to the leaders of Dubai for agreeing to provide a workable and compassionate solution for this situation."

He also said he was confident the "talented" Austin "will learn from this experience."

Hatch has been a proponent of legislation that allows drug treatment as an alternative to immediate incarceration in sentencing and worked to fund drug prevention and treatment programs both in and out of prisons.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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