New Rule for the Games

The sham trial of the principal actors in the corruption scandal that brought the 2002 Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City should put to rest any doubt about the two-tiered system of justice in the US: one for influential parties and another for the remainder.

Tom Welch was president and Dave Johnson was senior vice president of the Salt Lake bid and organizing committees when the Games were awarded to Salt Lake City.  In July 2000, they were indicted for conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and interstate travel in aid of racketeering in connection with an alleged bribery scheme to induce members of the International Olympic Committee to award the Games to their city [1].

Federal prosecutors charged Welch and Johnson with providing IOC members with travel expenses, scholarships for their children, sham contracts, medical services, and cash.  If convicted, they would face up to 75 years in prison.

The jury trial began October 28, 2003 in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah with Judge David Sam presiding.

Half-way through the trial, on December 2, 2003, Judge Sam halted the proceeding and formally acquitted Welch and Johnson — bypassing the process of jury deliberation and declaring that the evidence did not meet the legal standard of bribery [2].  He ignored the prosecution's plea that, "To dismiss this case now is to deprive the jury of its right to make a statement that Olympic corruption must be stopped." [3]

Instead, Judge Sam cottoned to the mitigating circumstances that Welch and Johnson were civic leaders, that gift-giving was commonly associated with the Olympic community, and that the case was devoid of "criminal intent or evil purpose." [3]  To him, the end justified the means, and the jury be damned!

Judge Sam had already shown bias in favor of Welch and Johnson when he dismissed the earlier case against them in 2001.  Clearly, when that case was returned to the lower court by the appellate court, Sam should have recused himself because of his interest in the outcome.  However, he was empowered with judicial authority and had a job to finish.


  1. James Nelson, "Utah Olympic Officials Go on Trial Tuesday," Reuters, 10/28/03, 03:03 ET.

  2. "Judge's ruling clears Salt Lake officials, " The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, December 6, 2003, p. D-4.

  3. Alan Abrahamson, "Judge Drops Olympic Bid Case; He criticizes prosecutors for bringing case against two civic leaders in Salt Lake City, accused of plying IOC officials with gifts to win 2002 Games," Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2003, p. D-1.


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