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John Daley ReportingTestimony got under way today in the Olympic bribery trial. The first witness for the government in the case against former Olympic leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson was Welch's former secretary who worked for the bid committee during the key years leading up to winning the Games in 1995.
Stephanie Pate was on the witness stand all day and a number of pieces of the puzzle emerged. Pate said nothing to reporters as she entered court today. Once on the witness stand, federal prosecutor Richard Wiedis asked her about a broad spectrum of information regarding the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee including its organization, things she did for the bid campaign led by former leaders Welch and Johnson--including letters she wrote, reimbursements, checks and faxes she sent out--and conversations she had or overheard with key players.
Emerging from her testimony was a detailed portrait of the National Olympic Committee program, or NOC program, through which International Olympic Committee members and their families were treated to shopping sprees, traveled to places like Paris and New York, and enjoyed fine dining at restaurants like LaCaille.
Pate's testimony covered help the bid committee provided to key IOC members including the daughter of Cameroonian IOC member Rene Essoma. According to Pate and documents entered into court, the bid committee paid Sonia Essomba $900 dollars to work at the scorers table at the National Gymnastic Championships held in Salt Lake in 1994. And Pate herself was dispatched by Welch to help Essomba to move into a new apartment in Washington DC. And SLOC paid thousands to cover a family trip to Paris.
Prosecutor Richard Wiedis asked: "Was she--Essomba--under privileged?” Pate replied: "Not by my standard."
“IOC member Jean-Claude Ganga from the Congo”, says Pate “was treated very well when he came to Salt Lake City." She says Welch helped Ganga set up bank accounts, paid for travel to his son’s wedding in Montreal and for medical treatments for Ganga's mother.
So prosecutors with Pate's testimony are pulling what they see as key pieces of the larger puzzle. Tomorrow the defense will get a chance to cross-examine. They are expected to ask about a document which started this whole scandal, one that Pate reportedly had a role in leaking to the press.