0

Jury finds former secretary guilty in Coke case

ATLANTA - A federal jury rejected a former Coca-Cola secretary's claim that she was duped by two ex-cons and convicted her Friday 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 111⁄2 hours over three days. On Thursday, jurors told U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester they were ''hung'' and could not decide. Forrester told the jury to try again Friday.

Williams showed no visible reaction when the verdict was announced. 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 allegations came to light.

The government said Williams stole confidential documents and samples of products that hadn't been launched 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 Atlanta-based Coca-Cola that it had received a letter in May 2006 offering Coca-Cola trade secrets to the ''highest bidder.'' The FBI launched 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.

Singer suggested that Dimson and Duhaney stole the documents and product samples from Williams without her knowledge and conspired to sell them to Pepsi behind her back. Williams testified earlier this week she left a key under her doormat for one of the co-defendants, perhaps explaining how they could have gotten into her home.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said during his closing argument Wednesday that Williams' key under the mat claim was one of many lies told by Williams.

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 loaned her was $400, and that was after her July 5 arrest.

Pak, the prosecutor, said, ''We're happy with the verdict. It was the right verdict based on the evidence in the case.''