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Senator Orrin Hatch Hip-Hops to the Rescue
July 11, 2006

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

What do you do if you're a big-time hip-hop and R&B record producer and you get in trouble with the law while overseas? Who ya gonna call?

Well, apparently it's Orrin Hatch.

It turns out that recently, in a real-life incident, a long-distance shout went out to the staid and sometimes tough-talking U.S. senator from Utah.

When Grammy-winning record producer Dallas Austin found himself sentenced to hard time in a Dubai jail, it's unlikely that he envisioned his escape hatch would be the GOP notable.

Austin, who has produced hits for Madonna, Janet Jackson, TLC, Gwen Stefani, and Michael Jackson, had been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. The producer had allegedly brought a little more than a gram of cocaine into Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).

Austin had traveled to the Mideast nation to attend a birthday bash for supermodel Naomi Campbell. (Maybe next year Campbell can have the party somewhere less exotic, like Chuck E. Cheese.)

Hatch issued a statement to the New York Times indicating that he was asked by Austin's attorneys to assist. Apparently, word was that Hatch had some connections in the region.

One might wonder why Hatch's name came up in the first place. Where was Jesse Jackson? Or Al Sharpton? Or Ted Kennedy?

The explanation has to do with some other links between the hit maker and the senator.

Austin and Hatch have three important things in common. First, they're both musicians. Hatch has written and recorded hundreds of religious and patriotic songs.

Second, they've both utilized the services of the same entertainment lawyer, Joel Katz.

And third, auspiciously for Austin, they're both Americans.

After having been asked to help, Hatch gave the U.A.E.'s ambassador and consul in Washington, D.C., a call on Austin's behalf. The lawmaker also acted as intermediary between the U.A.E. and Austin's lawyers.

Within hours Dubai's ruler pardoned Austin, and he was released from a holding cell in the Dubai jail. The Dubai government gave no reason for the pardon.

Hatch was helped in his lobbying efforts by singer Lionel Richie, music producer Quincy Jones, and a host of ambassadors, clergy, and lawyers.

The senator's office issued a statement expressing confidence that Austin "will learn from this experience."

You'd think he would have learned from "Midnight Express."

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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