- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal jury rejected a former Coca-Cola secretary’s claim that she was duped by two ex-cons and convicted her yesterday of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the world’s largest beverage maker in an effort to sell them to rival Pepsi.

Joya Williams faces up to 10 years in prison. No sentencing date was immediately set.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for 11-1/2 hours over three days. On Thursday, jurors told U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester they were “hung” and could not decide. Judge Forrester told the jury to try again.

Williams showed no visible reaction when the verdict was announced yesterday. She remains free on bond, pending sentencing. Her lawyer plans an appeal.

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

The government said Williams stole confidential documents and samples of products that hadn’t been debuted from the Coca-Cola Co. and gave them to Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney as part of a conspiracy to sell the items to Purchase, N.Y.-based Pepsico Inc. for at least $1.5 million.

The conspiracy was foiled after Pepsi warned Coca-Cola that 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.

Dimson and Duhaney have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Duhaney testified during Williams’ trial that Williams spearheaded the scheme. Dimson did not testify.

The government said Williams was deeply in debt, unhappy in her job and seeking a big payday, so she embarked on the scheme to steal trade secrets.

Defense lawyer Janice Singer urged jurors to use their common sense, and she argued that prosecutors did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

During two days on the stand, Williams testified that she didn’t steal anything from Coke, but rather took documents and product samples home to protect herself in case her boss questioned whether she was doing her job.

She also claimed that $4,000 in cash she deposited into her bank account in June 2006, just days after Dimson was given $30,000 in cash from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for Coke materials, came from a friend, not from Dimson.

But the friend, Clifton Carroll, testified Tuesday that Williams was lying; he said the most money he ever lent her was $400, and that was after her July 5 arrest.

Juror Rodney Brown said that when the jury broke Thursday after saying it was deadlocked, the members were split down the middle.

Asked if Williams’ credibility was an issue, he said, “I think there were some issues about how she represented herself.”

Brown said the jurors found one piece of evidence particularly important: The wiretapped phone calls between Dimson and Duhaney, in which they discussed the scheme and how to split up the money they hoped to get from Pepsi among themselves and Williams.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias told reporters after the verdict that Williams “misused her unique access” to confidential Coca-Cola documents “for personal profit.”

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