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Judge postpones S.L. Olympic bid trial 2 weeks

Both sides say the delay has nothing to do with IOC voting

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The federal judge who will oversee the trial of former Olympic bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson has postponed its start date by two weeks.

Both sides in the case say the delay has nothing to do with the fact that the International Olympic Committee, which has been embarrassed and frustrated by the case, would have been electing its new president in Moscow the same week the trial began.

Now scheduled for July 30, the trial will likely begin a full week after the IOC's meeting concludes.

U.S. District Judge David Sam issued the order Thursday afternoon, saying that the defense team had asked for the continuance.

"We were meeting with the government, and we mutually agreed that the judge needed more time to deal with pending issues," said Johnson's attorney, Max Wheeler.

News of the delay came as a surprise to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee but won't have any effect on organizers, spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said Friday.

"The start date of the trial has no impact on our presentations in Moscow or on our planning for the Games," Shaw said. Organizers are scheduled to update the IOC in Moscow on preparations for the 2002 Winter Games.

Four months after hearing Welch and Johnson's motions to dismiss their 15-count indictment on charges of conspiracy, fraud and racketeering, the magistrate judge hearing the case issued the last of his orders of denial.

The defense team now has a month to raise objections to Magistrate Ronald Boyce's report and recommendation with Sam.

Welch and Johnson are accused of providing and then hiding payments and personal benefits to members of the International Olympic Committee in their efforts to bring the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

Journalists outside of Utah who regularly cover the IOC will likely be relieved not to have to choose between covering the meeting in Moscow and the trial in Salt Lake City.

While clerk of the court Markus Zimmer said he has received requests from more than 30 media organizations and more than 100 individual reporters to cover the trial, Sam's order delaying it had nothing to do with his staff's preparations for the media crush.

"Those negotiations occur only between the judge and the attorneys," he said.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche.

E-MAIL: mtitze@desnews.com