SALT LAKE CITY – Three months before the Games begin, a judge dismissed all remaining charges Thursday in the 2-year-old bribery scandal that tainted Salt Lake City's Winter Olympics.
U.S. District Judge David Sam tossed out 10 fraud counts and a conspiracy charge that had been filed against Salt Lake City bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson.
The two were charged in July 2000 of using $1 million to endear the city to International Olympic Committee officials. The alleged enticements included college scholarships for IOC members' relatives, guns, medical care and travel.
Prosecutors did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The judge had dismissed four bribery counts in July, and federal prosecutors elected to pursue the remaining charges.
But Sam said without the bribery charges, the rest of the case falls apart. Prosecutors had argued the indictment could be salvaged simply by changing a few words, but the judge said that would change the substance of the entire indictment.
The federal bribery counts were based entirely on a state bribery misdemeanor. In the July ruling, Sam said Utah's commercial bribery law doesn't apply to foreign groups like the IOC.
The government still tried to assert that Welch and Johnson deprived their board of money, property, honest services and its right to control the winning bid for February's Winter Games.
"The remaining conspiracy, wire and mail fraud charges are based on the presumption that defendants bribed IOC members unlawfully," Sam wrote.
Although the ruling suggests there was nothing illegal about Salt Lake City's Olympic bid, an internal IOC probe led to the dismissal of 10 IOC members.
Johnson's lawyer said the ruling lifts a burden from his client's shoulders.
"Even though the government appears to intend an appeal, it's good to have the federal court agree with us on the lack of criminality in his conduct," Max Wheeler said. "We're confident we'll be able to uphold the court's order" on appeal.