Coke's ex-secretary convicted

Associated Press
Joya Williams had worked as secretary to Coca-Cola's global brand director.

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 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 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 Friday.

Ms. Williams showed no visible reaction when the verdict was announced. She remains free on bond, pending sentencing.

She 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 Ms. 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 for at least $1.5 million.

The conspiracy was foiled after Pepsi received a letter in May 2006 offering Coca-Cola trade secrets to the "highest bidder." Pepsi warned Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, and an undercover FBI investigation was launched. The letter writer was identified as Mr. Dimson.

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

The government said Ms. 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.

Ms. Singer suggested the two co-defendants stole the documents and product samples from Ms. Williams without her knowledge and conspired to sell them to Pepsi behind her back.


ATLANTA - Authorities said a fire destroyed several units at Joya Williams' apartment complex Friday, including hers.

The fire at the Hunters Pointe apartment complex in Norcross, a suburb of Atlanta, happened at 1:48 p.m., a little more than an hour after Ms. Williams' guilty verdict was read.

Four to six units of the complex sustained heavy fire damage, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, a spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department. There were no reported injuries.

It wasn't clear whether Ms. Williams was home at the time of the fire. Her attorney, Janice Singer, said she was urgently trying to reach her late Friday.

- Associated Press