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Johnson denies charges

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The day after he was indicted along with Tom Welch on fraud, conspiracy and racketeering charges, Dave Johnson said Friday he didn't break the law in the campaign to bring the 2002 Winter Games to Utah.

"I did not do anything illegal. Our efforts to win the Winter Games were consistent with the goals and mission of the bid committee. We operated in a culture others created.

"There was never, ever an intention to deceive anyone. I have always told the truth. I didn't bribe anyone. I didn't defraud anyone. I acted in good faith, with honorable intentions," Johnson told reporters Friday evening, reading from a prepared statement.

The former vice president of both the bid effort and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee addressed a group of reporters from the steps of his attorney's downtown office for the first time since the scandal broke in late 1998.

Johnson did not, however, answer questions. Nor did the attorney by his side, Camille Johnson, who is no relation to him. She is assisting Johnson's attorney, Max Wheeler, in preparing Johnson's defense.

Thursday, Johnson and Welch were indicted in U.S. District Court on 15 felony counts. Federal prosecutors, who have been investigating the bid for 19 months, claim the pair secretly spent about $1 million bribing members of the International Olympic Committee.

The detailed indictment also claims Johnson and Welch solicited envelopes of cash from an Olympic sponsor for personal use and that they secretly paid a former U.S. Olympic Committee official to help them lobby for the Games.

The Associated Press reported late Friday their initial court appearance was scheduled for Aug. 1.

Besides denying he did anything wrong, Johnson also spoke of the personal effects of being charged with a crime. He was forced to resign in January 1999 from SLOC, where he had been earning about $200,000 a year.

"For 13 years I committed everything I had to bring the Olympics to Utah. My family made a considerable sacrifice. To be accused of criminal conduct is devastating. It is especially tough to see my young family suffer because of these accusations."

Also Friday, an official of Marker Ltd., the first company to sign on as a sponsor of the 2002 Winter Games after the bid scandal broke in late 1998, said he doesn't believe the company's image will be affected by the indictment.

"We don't think so because as far as the indictments are concerned, we just regard that as something that is really against two individuals. I think the Olympics itself should be larger than that," said Ralph Eeson, managing director of Marker's Olympic program.

"I think like most sponsors we just want to get the whole thing behind us. The city deserves a lot better. The athletes deserve a lot better," Eeson said Friday. "For us, we're just going to carry on supporting the Olympics and just do the best we can."

The ski-wear manufacturer was one of three Utah companies that stepped up in May 1999 with more than $30 million in cash, goods and services for the Games. The other two companies, O.C. Tanner and Questar Corp., are supplier-level contributors.

Marker, however, qualifies as a sponsor with a deal worth more than $20 million that includes uniforms for the 20,000 volunteers the organizing committee will need for the Games.

SLOC President Mitt Romney said organizers will "speak with our sponsors and let them know our confidence in the Games. He also said he doesn't believe any of the organizing committee's sponsors should be surprised by Thursday's indictment.

"Anyone who has followed the Olympics has long known that the Justice Department investigation, which we have welcomed, was ongoing and it would yield some kind of results, most likely indictments," Romney said.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com