A U.S. federal judge has thrown out all charges against two men accused of giving International Olympic Committee delegates $1 million dollars in cash, gifts and favors to win Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2002 Winter Games.
The decision came mid-trial Friday, one day after prosecutors wrapped up their case. Tom Welch, who led the Olympic bid effort, and his deputy Dave Johnson had been charged in a 15-count federal indictment with bribery, racketeering, fraud and conspiracy. They had faced up to 75 years in prison if convicted.
Welch and Johnson insisted they committed no crime, and both refused to accept government plea offers before and after their July 2000 indictment. The defense used prosecution witnesses to argue that gift-giving among Olympic bid cities was so commonplace that Salt Lake had to match the best of them.
U.S. District Court Judge David Sam said prosecutors had not proved their case. In dismissing the charges, Judge Sam said he regretted Welch and Johnson "were deprived of fully enjoying the fruits of their tireless efforts of bringing the Games to Salt Lake City."
Judge Sam had tossed out the original charges against the bid leaders before they were reinstated by an appeals court. The judge's decision Friday can not be appealed.