SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The government's bribery case against two Salt Lake City Olympic bid executives suffered a setback on Wednesday when a federal judge threw out what prosecutors saw as their strongest piece of evidence.
U.S. District Court Judge David Sam excluded the 28-page "geld file," a gossipy dossier of International Olympic Committee delegates that listed their personal and family needs and standing in the organization that awarded Utah the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Sam said the authenticity of the geld file and other documents found on discarded computer disks was in doubt. Prosecutors couldn't show who created or modified the documents or whether bid chief Tom Welch or deputy Dave Johnson even saw them.
Paul Newey, who managed computer services for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, testified the document turned up on one of several discarded computer disks in a computer storage room, inside boxes that contained old computer parts and discarded software. Newey turned over a copy of the disks to committee lawyers who gave them to federal prosecutors under a broad subpoena for bid records.
Geld, the German word for money, appears without explanation next to the names of eight IOC members. Prosecutors have said they know what the bid executives had in mind by "geld:" Six of the eight members received large sums of cash.
Johnson's attorney, Max Wheeler, has said "geld" was an innocent term used by Johnson as a young Mormon church missionary in Belgium to mean golden or potential converts. Wheeler has dismissed the geld file as "a lot of innuendo."
The geld file figured prominently in a grand jury indictment alleging Welch, who was president of the bid and organizing committee, and Johnson, who was senior vice president, "prepared a plan outlining the personal benefits to offer IOC members" for their votes.
The file is filled with blunt language. An entry for expelled Finnish IOC member Pirjo Haeggman noted "Husband needs a job." Her former spouse got $30,000 from the Salt Lake bid committee for a study of forestry practices in Finland. Another entry described Francis Nyangwesco of Uganda by saying: "son 17 needs a future, equipment, geld."
Sam's ruling was made outside of the presence of the jury, which returned Wednesday to hear testimony from Rod Hamson, finance director for the bid and organizing committees.
Hamson prepared vouchers and signed checks, and recounted how he was instructed by the bid leaders to make payments to IOC members and their relatives. He also was in charge of buying gifts and leaving them in hotel rooms of IOC visitors.
He described Welch as driven and enthusiastic and able to keep his staff working long hours. He also could "walk into a room where nobody believed in the Olympics and walk out with checks," Hamson said.
The fight over evidence came after a second day of testimony from Welch's former secretary, Stephanie Pate.
Pate testified Tuesday she was pressured to release a letter that revealed the city's bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics was greased by scholarships for relatives of IOC members.
Pate said Salt Lake Olympic trustee Ken Bullock several times demanded a copy of the letter because he was looking for evidence of improprieties by the bid campaign. She said she finally turned it over to him in a parking garage.
The letter was addressed to an IOC member's daughter who received $108,340 in education and living expenses from the Salt Lake bid committee, informing her of her final tuition payment.
The disclosure sparked the vote-buying scandal that forced 10 members off the IOC and left Welch and Johnson facing 15 felony charges.
If convicted on all counts, Welch, 59, and Johnson, 44, could get four to 75 years in prison. A federal grand jury indicted them more than three years ago on five counts of bribery racketeering, another five of mail, wire and "honest-services" fraud, four of violating the Travel Act and a single count of conspiracy.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)