Olympic Bribery Trial Begins Tuesday

Olympic Bribery Trial Begins Tuesday

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John Daley reportingLong-awaited by some, long-dreaded by others, the court trial in the Olympic bid scandal gets underway Tuesday morning.

This is a fascinating story, with a fascinating cast of characters. It's almost like a movie, where we've closely watched most of it, and now comes the dramatic conclusion.

The trial of Tom Welch and Dave Johnson is likely to provide the clearest picture to date of actions that lead to the Olympic bid scandal.

Federal prosecutors will argue $1 million given to members of the International Olympic Committee in cash, gifts, travel, family scholarships and other favors were "boldface bribes."

They'll say crimes were committed and the nation has an interest in keeping Olympic bidding FAIR, something with which losing cities would agree.

Bob Cashell/Former Reno Bid Leader/March 2000: "They all deserve to go to jail for what they've done. They've discriminated against other people and went out and stole these Olympics to Salt Lake City, and that's entirely wrong."

But defense attorneys will fire back that Welch and Johnson were simply doing business the "Olympic way."

Tom Welch/Former SLOC President/August, 2000: "There's no question that we did not do anything that violated the law. We did not do anything that other cities hadn't done. It was part of the process. We didn't do things which should embarrass this community."

The bid win was certainly celebrated as a team effort back in 1995. The defense will try to paint Welch and Johnson as scapegoats for other community leaders, including many who have kept silent or denied knowing about any impropriety.

On the day the pair were charged, Johnson suggested a trial could expose plenty.

Dave Johnson/Former SLOC Vice-President: "Well I don't hink anyone needs to be frightened by the truth. Do you?"

Monday at his monthly news conference, we asked the governor about the trial.

Question: "If you are asked on the stand, point blank, did you know about these gifts, payments, goodies, you'll say?.."

Gov. Mike Leavitt/(R) Utah: "Same thing I have from the very beginning. Nothing has changed. If I am called upon, as any other citizen, I will of course respond."

Both sides seem almost eager to go to trial and insist a plea bargain is not in the offing.

Welch tells KSL-TV: "Although this is a surreal experience, I'm quietly confident inside and looking forward to the trial...I am not now nor ever have looked for a settlement proposal. The prosecution is wrong and we intend to show that in court."

Of course the key audience of this story is the jury.

They'll be forced to pick one of two possible endings--guilty or innocent. And it all starts Tuesday with jury selection.

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