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Simmons Continues Testimony in Bribery Trial

Simmons Continues Testimony in Bribery Trial

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah telecommunications executive who hired the son of a powerful international Olympic delegate testified the "young fellow" produced no business for nearly two years.

Still, John Kim asked to stay on the payroll and by the end was helping reimburse his employer for his own salary -- all in a ruse to obtain a green card, the businessman said.

David Simmons, president of Simmons Media Group, returned to the stand Tuesday in the bribery trial of Salt Lake bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson, who are accused of plying International Olympic Committee delegates with $1 million in cash, gifts and job favors.

But under cross-examination Tuesday, Simmons acknowledged he was just as complicit in the hiring of John Kim, hoping Kim could sell some satellite transmission time to Asian broadcasting companies. Kim at one point "was working hard on our behalf," he said.

When Kim didn't work out, Simmons hounded Welch to reimburse Kim's salary and eventually got "paid to the penny." Simmons said he pressured Welch for money even though the bid committee was low on funds after losing its first bid for the Winter Olympics.

In 1990, Simmons testified Monday, Welch asked him to hire Kim, the son of "very important" IOC vice president Kim Un-yong of South Korea, whom the bid chief was trying to influence as part of a campaign to win the 2002 Winter Olympics.

John Kim was losing a job at NBC Sports and needed another one to renew his visa and qualify for a green card and permanent U.S. residency.

Simmons said the Salt Lake bid committee ended up paying $78,000 through a series of phony invoices he billed for Kim's salary, while Kim himself reimbursed $40,000 through a pair of front companies.

Outside court, Welch said he was eager to "put some perspective" on Simmons' testimony later in the trial when he takes the stand.

"Don't miss that day," Welch told reporters. "It's all relative... You've got to get to where you see both sides of the coin."

Kim continued to receive paychecks for almost a year after he left the New York office of Simmons' company, then called Keystone Communications, according to testimony and trial exhibits. He was hired in October 1990 to arrange satellite transmission deals with networks in South Korea and Taiwan, but produced no business and was off the Keystone payroll when he obtained a green card in September 1992.

"If it would not have been for the bid committee's offer to reimburse us for the salary in the event Mr. Kim proved unsuccessful, we would not have hired him," said Simmons, who struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors in 1999.

Simmons pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tax fraud for deducting Kim's salary as a business expense, even though he was reimbursed for it.

Welch lawyer Bill Taylor calculated that Simmons faces a three-month jail sentence unless the government recommends leniency, which it has promised to do if his testimony proves helpful in convicting Welch or Johnson.

Under Taylor's questioning, Simmons acknowledged he was avoiding prosecution on more serious felony tax or immigration fraud as part of his plea deal.

Simmons said that when he first talked to federal investigators in 1999, "I didn't believe I had done anything that was a criminal offense." He changed his mind after four meetings with agents who showed him falsified immigration documents he signed for Kim.

"Did they tell you they were going to prosecute you for lying?" Taylor asked.

"I don't recall the specifics, but it was a pretty tough interview," said Simmons.

Defense lawyers are trying to attack the businessman's credibility much the same way they did with Rod Hamson, the bid campaign's finance director who completed his sixth day of testimony earlier Monday.

Hamson, who prepared thousands of checks for IOC delegates, many for travel reimbursement, avoided prosecution by agreeing to cooperate with authorities. Then the defense surprised him with evidence from the government's own files showing Hamson may have pocketed more than $50,000 through double-dipping on expense reimbursements.

Simmons is proving a stronger prosecution witness than Hamson, who couldn't explain many of the checks he wrote for IOC members, leaving the government unable to prove they were bribes.

But Simmons several times implicated Welch in what the government contends was a bribery conspiracy cloaked by phony invoices and consulting deals.

At one point Simmons described his anger as the U.S. Department of Labor determined Kim qualified for a $70,383 salary in his line of work instead of $50,000 for what by then was a no-show job.

Welch "was not any more happy than I was about it" but promised more reimbursement that was slow in coming, Simmons testified.

John Kim, 42, left for South Korea before his 1999 indictment on immigration fraud and lying to the FBI and never returned, but was picked up last May on an Interpol warrant in Bulgaria, where he planned to inspect a training site for Olympic rowing. He is fighting extradition from Bulgaria on the scandal-related charges.

Kim Un-yong received a "most serious" warning from the IOC in 1999 but maintained he didn't know the Salt Lake bid committee was paying for his son's job. But Simmons testified Monday he disclosed the arrangement to the Olympic official during a sales trip to South Korea.

Ten other IOC members were expelled or forced to resign in the Salt Lake bid scandal, the worst in Olympic history.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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