Originally created 01/20/99

Federal grand jury to begin hearing testimony in Salt Lake case



SALT LAKE CITY -- The former secretary to the man who led Salt Lake's bid effort for the 2002 Winter Games will tell federal investigators on Wednesday that she was just doing as she was told.

David Watkiss said that Stephanie Pate was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury here on Wednesday, but asked instead to meet with investigators privately.

Pate, who was the secretary to Tom Welch, the man who led the effort to win the Games for Salt Lake, was not a "player," in the actions that have given rise to allegations of bribery, Watkiss said.

"We just did what we were instructed to do," Watkiss said, using the plural form lawyers sometimes use for their clients.

Watkiss said he assumes investigators want to ask Pate what has been in the news -- lavish gifts, cash, scholarships and free medical care given to International Olympic Committee members by Salt Lake bid boosters.

The top two executives of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee have resigned, and Welch, who resigned amid a spousal abuse charge in 1997, was stripped of his consulting contract and pension.

In interviews last week, Welch admitted giving $50,000 in cash to an African IOC member who said he needed the money for poor childrens' sports programs and $10,000 to the mayoral election campaign of an IOC member in Chile.

"We're going to meet with the government tomorrow and then the government can decide whether it wishes to present Ms. Pate before a grand jury," Watkiss said. "The grand jury appearance can be much shorter once the government understands what she knows and what she doesn't know."

The lawyer said he had advised Pate against talking to other investigators looking into the Olympic mess until after she talks with the Department of Justice.

"Our bottom line is we're trying to cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation to the best of our ability," Watkiss said.

Other lawyers representing key players in Salt Lake's bid have either not returned calls or made no comments when contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A Justice Department official confirmed that more than one subpoena for grand jury testimony has been issued.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not say who or how many received subpoenas or when they were called to appear before the grand jury.

Two federal grand juries are regularly empaneled in Salt Lake and at least one meets on Wednesdays.

Beside the SLOC resignations in recent weeks, the casualties of the scandal so far have been a top U.S. Olympic Committee who resigned last week after revealing a business relationship with Welch; and IOC member Pirjo Haeggman of Finland, who resigned on Monday.

A probe by an independent Salt Lake ethics committee is due Feb. 11 but could be finished sooner, and the USOC investigation should be finished in February.

The Justice Department investigation into possible fraud and bribery is being led by Richard Wiedis, a former bank-fraud prosecutor from Washington who is working in Salt Lake.

FBI spokesman George Dougherty said Tuesday the investigation likely will take months.

"These types of investigations take a long time ... but we understand the urgency here to get this matter resolved quickly and so we're going to expedite our investigation," Dougherty said. "Obviously, we don't want it to drag out for a year or so."

In complex white collar crimes, it's not unusual for prosecutors to go before a grand jury many times as they build their case, he said.

He declined to give specifics about the status of the investigation or whether the grand jury would hear evidence on Wednesday.

The Deseret News has reported the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Customs Service have joined the FBI in examining allegations swirling about Salt Lake's bid.

The IRS would look at whether Salt Lake Olympics bid and organizing officials failed to list money paid for scholarships, gifts and cash contributions on tax returns.

Customs has been asked to look at allegations that bid officials took large amounts of cash with them to Budapest in June 1995, when the International Olympic Committee selected Salt Lake to host the 2002 Winter Games, according to the Deseret News.