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News: Austin Pleads Guilty to Cocaine Charges

Austin Pleads Guilty to Cocaine Charges
Grammy-winning producer Dallas Austin, who has crafted songs for TLC, Madonna and Michael Jackson, pleaded guilty Sunday to cocaine charges in the United Arab Emirates, a newspaper reported.

Austin faces up to four years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"I'm pleading guilty but by mistake," Austin was quoted as saying during a short hearing in Dubai. "I had no knowledge and no intention of violating the laws of the U.A.E."

The songwriter, whose life story was loosely depicted in the 2002 movie "Drumline," was arrested May 19 at Dubai's airport.

He was on his way to a three-day birthday party for supermodel Naomi Campbell at a Dubai hotel, the newspaper reported. He was charged with cocaine possession and has been held without bail at a police station, it said.

The newspaper said four attorneys accompanied Austin to the hearing: Mohammad al-Reda of the United Arab Emirates, Qays Hatem al-Zu'bi of Bahrain, Joel A. Katz of Atlanta and another American lawyer who declined to give his name.

Austin, who is based in Atlanta, has several hits to his credit, including Pink's "Just Like a Pill" and TLC's "Unpretty." He won a Grammy Award for best R&B album in 1999 for producing TLC's multiplatinum "Fanmail." He also produced "Drumline" and "ATL."

Grammy-winning R&B producer Dallas Austin appeared in Dubai Court of First Instance yesterday and pleaded guilty to charges of possessing cocaine. The verdict in the high profile case is due tomorrow and Austin could face a minimum of four years in jail. But sources say, whatever the outcome, they expect the US music star to be on a plane home soon.
Austin, sporting a suitably ‘bling' diamond earring and wearing a white dress shirt and jeans, stood flanked by Dubai police looking confident, at one point even appearing to wink at his lawyers.

After the judge had read the charges against him, Austin, who has worked with stars including Madonna and Michael Jackson, answered: "I'm guilty, but it was a mistake. I didn't realise I had the drugs with me and I didn't intend to use them here in the UAE" Austin claimed.

"He didn't know that he was breaking the law here," his local lawyer, Mohammad Al-Reda said, adding that it should also be taken into consideration that Austin is a "celebrity". "He 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" the lawyer said.

Austin, 34, who was arrested at Dubai Airport with 1.26g of cocaine on May 19 as he arrived to attend supermodel Naomi Campbell's birthday party at the Burj Al Arab, will remain in police custody until the final hearing tomorrow.

In most other circumstances, a defendant pleading guilty to a drugs possession charge would almost certainly face prison, but sources close to the case told 7DAYS that Austin has already been granted a pardon that will be handed out after the verdict is pronounced.

American ‘VIPs' have apparently been in touch with senior figures here to try to ensure lenient treatment for Austin. Lawyer Abdul Kareem Mohammad, who is not attached to this case, told 7DAYS that the drug laws in Dubai are usually very strict: "There is a red line for the drug cases - between four years and life in jail for having or trading drugs, even if the amount is very little."

In May a judge sentenced a British man to five years in jail for possessing 2.7g of cocaine, and last week a 31-year-old Saudi was sentenced to four years for having 1.8g of the same drug.
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