Sen. Hatch Helps Secure Release of Music Producer Dallas Austin

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U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a musician in his own right, helped secure the release of Atlanta R&B producer Dallas Austin from a Dubai jail after a drug conviction, the senator's office confirmed Saturday.

In a statement released through his staff, the conservative Republican said he was contacted by Austin's attorneys, 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 bringing 1.26 grams of cocaine into Dubai.

On Tuesday a 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 and released Austin.

Beyond saying Hatch has "good relations with the ambassador and other good people in Dubai," his office gave The Associated Press no specifics about Hatch's dealings with the Dubai government.

Hatch spokesman Peter Carr said he did not know whether the senator and Austin had ever met, but he confirmed that both employ Atlanta entertainment lawyer Joel A Katz. Hatch has written and recorded hundreds of religious and patriotic songs.

Katz and Washington attorney Joe Reeder traveled to Dubai to try to secure Austin's release, The New York Times reported in a story published Saturday. Musicians Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones also intervened as character references, the paper reported.

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

Austin's attorneys said they enlisted Hatch's help because he has influence with Dubai, the paper reported. Hatch this year 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 Austin "will learn from this experience."