Talk about friends in high places.
Two days after pleading guilty to drug charges in Dubai and getting a four-year prison sentence, Grammy-winning hitmaker Dallas Austin was unexpectedly freed from jail Tuesday when the Middle Eastern country's ruler granted him a pardon.
Austin, 34, left Dubai on a Wednesday morning flight after more than two months behind bars and is now back in his hometown of Atlanta, the music producer's camp confirmed Wednesday.
"The Austin family, and countless dear friends are very happy to have Dallas back home, safe and sound," publicist Michelle Benson said in a statement. "They also are grateful to the leadership of the UAE and Dubai for their sensitivity and humanity.
"Dallas and his family appreciate all the prayers and concern of so many friends, and want to thank everyone for honoring their privacy at this special time."
The impresario was detained May 19 at Dubai International Airport after allegedly getting caught bringing cocaine into the sheikdom, part of the United Arab Emirates. News of his incarceration didn't break however until last week as his Atlanta attorney, Joel Katz, and UAE-based lawyers sought to keep his arrest out of the papers.
Published reports indicated he was nabbed while on his way to a three-day birthday bash being thrown for supermodel Naomi Campbell, but lawyer, Qays Hatem al-Zu'bi, disputed those assertions, claiming he was in Dubai attending music concerts.
In any case, Austin pleaded guilty Sunday in Dubai's Court of First Instance to possession of 1.26 grams of cocaine, telling the court he had made a mistake and didn't mean to break UAE law. He was sentenced on Tuesday to four years in prison, a penalty not uncommon for the Islamic Kingdom, which has a reputation for dealing harshly with drug offenders (smugglers have been known to get the death penalty in the most extreme cases).
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, just hours after Austin learned his fate, Dubai's leader, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, issued the reprieve and the music man was released from custody just before midnight. He went straight to the airport and took the first flight out of Dubai at approximately 9 a.m. local time.
No reason was given for the pardon, including what kind of deal Austin's legal team may have struck with Al Maktoum. It's also still unclear whether he'll ever be allowed back into the city-state. Gulfnews.com reported that he was being deported.
Austin's protégé, R&B singer Monica, was thrilled about her mentor's release. "I cannot wait to put my arms around his neck," she told the Journal-Constitution.
Austin is credited as a producer on such charting tracks as Michael Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us," Pink's "Just Like a Pill" and Gwen Stefanis "Cool." He won a Grammy in 1999 for producing the Best R&B Album, TLC's FanMail, which featured the smash singles "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty."
He also founded his own label, Rowdy Records, in 1992 and has dabbled in Hollywood, having produced the semi-autobiographical 2002 flick, Drumline, starring Nick Cannon.