- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1:35 p.m.

ATLANTA (AP) — A former Coca-Cola Co. secretary convicted of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the world’s largest beverage maker was sentenced today to eight years in federal prison.

Joya Williams, 42, had faced up to 10 years in prison on the single conspiracy charge in a failed scheme to sell the materials to rival PepsiCo Inc. for at least $1.5 million. She was convicted Feb. 2 after a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, where Coca-Cola Co. is based.

“This is the kind of offense that cannot be tolerated in our society,” U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester said in imposing the sentence.

A co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Judge Forrester’s sentence for Williams was higher than the 63 months to 78 months recommended by federal prosecutors and contained in sentencing guidelines for the judge to consider.

He said the seriousness of the crime necessitated a departure from the guidelines, by which federal judges are not bound.

“I can’t think of another case in 25 years that there’s been so much obstruction of justice,” the judge said of Williams’ conduct.

Judge Forrester also largely ignored a tearful apology by Williams, which was the first time she acknowledged what she did.

“I just wanted to say that I’m not a bad person,” Williams told the judge before he imposed his sentence. “I’m really not.”

She added, “I am sorry to Coke, and I’m sorry to my boss and to you and to my family, as well.”

Williams’ claim of innocence during her trial weighed against her when she was sentenced. She had asserted her innocence and testified at the trial that she did nothing wrong in the Coke case.

The government said Williams stole confidential documents and samples of products that hadn’t been started from Coca-Cola and gave them to Dimson and a third defendant, Edmund Duhaney, as part of a conspiracy to sell the items to Pepsi. Duhaney, like Dimson, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Duhaney will be sentenced later.

The conspiracy was foiled after Pepsi warned Coca-Cola it had received a letter in May 2006 offering Coca-Cola trade secrets to the “highest bidder.” The FBI began an undercover investigation and identified the letter writer as Dimson.

Williams was fired as a secretary to Coca-Cola’s global brand director at the company’s headquarters after the accusations came to light.

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