Good night, Irene. Sweet dreams. There never was an Olympics scandal. It was just a bad dream and it’s over. Federal Judge David Sam has delayed indefinitely the trial of fallen Olympic bid guru Tom Welch and his sidekick Dave Johnson. That means in all likelihood there will be no trial, evidence or no evidence. The governor and Utah’s Olympic fraternity are whistling past the graveyard.
Most certainly, Welch and Johnson would have liked to prove they didn’t act alone in buying the 2002 Games. But avoiding a trial is the safer bet—not that it was their call. It was Sen. Orrin Hatch’s close friend, Judge Sam, who seems to have made that decision. It appears Utah will be spared the specter of all that dirty laundry aired in a courtroom filled with dozens of reporters from around the country and around the world.
Justice hasn’t been denied on that scale since federal prosecutors shied away from indicting then-Mayor Deedee Corradini for her role in the Bonneville Pacific fraud. It was, if you will recall, Sen. Hatch who notified the U.S. Justice Department that any prosecution of Corradini better be airtight—read: hands off or else. It wasn’t that Hatch loved the mayor so much, but Salt Lake City was struggling to land an Olympic bid and it wouldn’t look right to the IOC if the mayor were seen as a crook.
Did Hatch also worry that a trial of Olympic bid leaders on the eve of Utah’s big chance to shine on the world stage would throw a wet blanket on the gala and cast a shadow across Utah’s people? Who knows? But he did say that he was “heartened” by the news that the case had been, apparently, swept away.
When Judge Sam knocked the bottom out of the case by ruling counter to federal Magistrate Ronald Boyce and tossing out the four most stinging counts in the 15-count indictment, legal scholars were puzzled. They shouldn’t have been. This is, after all, the same judge who refused to rule when Catalyst magazine filed suit against the Utah Department of Alcohol Beverage Control for disallowing advertising of liquor. The judge simply left the DABC suit on his desk to grow yellow with age.
That appears to be what he is doing with what’s left of the Welch-Johnson indictment. Rather than pressing forward with a case that already has been delayed and delayed again, the judge put it off indefinitely, pointing U.S. Justice Department officials to a graceful exit.
If that does indeed transpire, Gov. Leavitt could proclaim that an exhaustive two-year investigation turned up no wrongdoing. The governor and Salt Lake Olympic poobahs could then declare that they served their community and the Olympic Spirit well.