A Big "Mistake"
July 4, 2006
by Pamela Cole, Editor-in-Chief
Dallas Austin made a mistake. A big one.
The Columbus, Georgia native, Atlanta-based music
and film producer was arrested May 19 in the United Arab Emirates
for possession of 1.26 grams of cocaine. He has been in jail there
for six weeks. Today, he was sentenced to four more years in an
Arab prison. By UAE standards (which upholds a zero-tolerance policy
on illegal drugs), he got off easy. The sentence for drug trafficking
in the UAE is death.
"I'm pleading guilty, but by mistake," a
confident Austin confessed to the court of robed Arabians on Monday,
according to witnesses. "I had no knowledge and no intention
of violating the laws of the UAE," he added.
Did Austin think that drug possession was legal in
the UAE? Perhaps he thinks it's legal in America, too. Did he think
he was enroute to Amsterdam instead of the land of Arabian knights?
That admission of guilt smacks of irresponsibility to me. Austin
is a rich, successful American, and other rich successful Americans
have been able to avoid such sentences in the past. Will Austin
be able to remember now, as a result of this embarrassing incident,
that possession of cocaine is illegal?
The 30-something Austin has suddenly become another
bad example for young African American men. What a shame! Austin
is revered in Atlanta for his success in music, producing songs
for TLC, Madonna, and Michael Jackson to name a few. Recently, he
has also become a well-regarded filmmaker with the local productions
of Drumline and ATL.
But one "mistake" has added Austin to the
list of hip hop/rap artists whose fame and fortune led them down
the path to prison (and some, to death). Atlanta's golden boy is
suddenly fool's gold.
When someone as smart and talented as Dallas Austin
makes such a stupid "mistake," I don't know what to think.
So I think about Tyler Perry, also Atlanta-based, who is said to
begin every production meeting with a prayer. I think about Robert
Townsend, CEO of the Black Family Channel, generously sharing his
wisdom and experience with local students.