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Jurors Hear Opening Statements in Bribery Trial

Jurors Hear Opening Statements in Bribery Trial

Posted - Oct. 31, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.



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John Daley ReportingOne of Utah's most closely watched trials in years got underway today. The Olympic bribery case of Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, charged with 15 federal felonies, started this morning with opening arguments.

It was a battle of multi-media presentations today with the two sides using charts, graphs, photos and video. Federal prosecutor John Scott asked jurors to keep in mind one thing, which he wrote on large board, “Common Sense." The defense attorneys wanted jurors to focus on ideas that the bid was "a team effort" and Welch and Johnson were "scapegoats."

The day Salt Lake won the Olympics is a stark contrast with Halloween of 2003 -- a cold day where prosecutors enter federal court followed by former Olympic leaders and now defendants Tom Welch and Dave Johnson to hear opening arguments in the case over their alleged corruption in winning the games.

Tom Welch, Former SLOC President: "I'm glad to get it going. I think a lot will be shown today. And as the days go on the government’s going to come find what the people of Utah know."

Bill Taylor, Attorney for Tom Welch: "I think the questions are really pretty simple. That's what I'm going to try to get the jury to understand."

Prosecutor John Scott went first, saying Welch and Johnson made a conscious choice to start a "sophisticated campaign of bribery", identifying which International Olympic Committee delegates could be bribed, and later giving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts and using deceptive accounting and sham contracts to hide what they were doing.

Scott said in hotels and airports Welch and Johnson took $130,000 in bundles of cash from Olympic sponsor, Jet Set Sport. He said he could show how the money was used, but urged jurors to use their "common sense."

The defense, with Welch's attorney going first, tried to beat back every prosecution point saying it was a team effort with community members like businessmen Frank Joklik and Spence Eccles, IOC members like Anita DeFrantz, politicians like Mike Leavitt and Orrin Hatch all playing a roll

They also argued that most transactions in question were on the books, that Welch and Johnson were made scapegoats, and likening IOC members to pirates who expected gifts in violation of their own "guidelines."

Johnson's attorney Max Wheeler filed through document after document, he said, proving that other bid team members signed checks, wrote letters, gave gifts.

The defense too displayed photos while asking the question ‘how could Welch and Johnson have deceived the bid committee and IOC members for ten years?’

Steve Pace, Olympic Critic: "I think it sure came out in this session that a lot people been telling a lot of lies."

Max Wheeler, Attorney for Dave Johnson: "Everything was done out in the open. Everybody that wanted to know could find out."

Dave Johnson, Former SLOC Vice-President: "Documents are going to be very important. Sure shows we didn't hide anything."

So it was an interesting day in court with a lot of information for jurors to digest. Testimony begins on Monday.

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