Series of Dubai arrests sparks concern in music industry over safety of visiting the Arab state.
VIP Bodyguard facing 1 year in Dubai prison rallies celebrity support
26 October 2023
Celebrity Bodyguard facing 1 year in prison rallies support from legendary grammy award winning artists
Trey Songz' bodyguard was sentenced last week to 1 year in Dubai’s notorious jail after being charged with “assault” for doing his job as personal protection. His sentence comes after social media influencer Tierra Allen (Sassy Trucker) and New York student Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos’s arrests hit the international media. The prevalence of American arrests in Dubai has sparked concern over its safety as a tourism destination.
Miami VIP bodyguard Cornell Whitfield’s family has been appealing for his sentence to be commuted and for him to be able to return to his Miami residence and be reunited with his 2 year old son. “He was just doing his job”, explains his cousin Sarena. Whitfield slapped a Jordanian man on the face who was acting aggressively and threateningly while clearly under the influence. The Jordanian assailant later demanded US$60,000 to drop the case which, according to Detained in Dubai founder Radha Stirling, is “an incentive to open frivolous or fabricated criminal allegations against unsuspecting foreigners”.
These high profile cases have illustrated how drastically things can go wrong in the Middle East. Whitfield’s family opened a GoFundMe and have lobbied their Congressional representative, Frederica Wilson, to push for this injustice to be overturned.
Meanwhile, celebrities have rallied behind Whitfield, calling for his release. American rapper Slim Thug posted his support “he was only doing his job” and rapper Bun B posted “my guy is being wrongfully held in Dubai”.
Grammy award winning artist, Tiny, called for support, saying “This situation is unfortunate and he does not deserve to be treated any kind of way for doing his job. He’s a family man and loving father who deserves to be with his loved ones”. Footballer Deebo Samuels (@19Problemz) reassured Whitfield, posting “we gone get you home bruddah”.
Numerous celebrities and artists across America have shared their support for Cornell Whitfield’s return. “Celebrities need to assess how easily they and their staff can become vulnerable to Dubai’s corrupt and volatile legal system”, adds Stirling. “A simple allegation is sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction. In Whitfield’s case, the CCTV evidence, hotel security staff and witnesses fully supported the bodyguard’s restrained response. If someone attacks you, you need to be able to defend yourself without fear of imprisonment. Dubai has a sustained history of jailing victims of crime. The judicial system is notoriously racist against foreigners, especially those of African and Asian origin.”
Whitfield’s cousin Sarena and mother Marysia released a joint video calling for his release. “They have both been extremely worried that he will unfairly spend a year behind bars” said Stirling, who is in daily contact with them.