Jury Selection Begins in Olympic Bribery Trial

Jury selection started Tuesday in a bribery trial that will determine whether two Salt Lake City bid leaders broke the law to bring the 2002 Winter Games (searchto Utah.

The jury will be selected from about 80 prospects who filed into the federal courtroom past tight security Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge David Sam was scheduled to continue interviewing the prospective jurors Wednesday.

The trial could last as long as six weeks. Tom Welch (search), 59, the bid leader, and Dave Johnson (search), 44, his deputy, are accused of doling out $1 million in cash, gifts and favors to win the Winter Games for Salt Lake City. The defense argues that the extravagant gifts to Olympic officials were merely business as usual.

Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (search), who was confirmed Tuesday as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is among 87 people scheduled to testify.

Others on the defense witness list include former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who helped bring the 1996 Summer Games to his city, and International Olympic Committee Vice President James Easton.

Welch and Johnson also are expected to take the stand.

The scandal was the worst in Olympic history, and it resulted in the expulsion or resignation of 10 IOC members.

Welch and Johnson have maintained their innocence, and insist Utah's political and business elite knew what they were doing.

The defendants were indicted in 2000 on 15 felony charges, including bribery racketeering, conspiracy and fraud. They have twice rejected the government's offer of a plea deal on a single count of tax fraud.

Welch and Johnson could face up to 75 years in prison if convicted of all charges, though any actual sentence would likely be far shorter.

In 2001, U.S District Court Judge David Sam threw out the case, sparing Salt Lake City the embarrassment of a courtroom spectacle leading up to the 2002 Games.

Then in April of this year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reversed Sam's order and said the bid leaders must stand trial.