Jury selection begins in Coke trial

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ATLANTA - One hundred potential jurors filed into a federal courtroom Tuesday for the start of the conspiracy trial of a former Coca-Cola secretary accused of stealing trade secrets from the world's largest beverage maker in an effort to sell them to rival Pepsi.

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  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff

Individual questioning of potential jurors by the defense lawyers and prosecutors will begin today, and opening statements are scheduled for Monday. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

Joya Williams, who was fired from her job as an administrative assistant to Coca-Cola's global brand director after the allegations came to light, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the single federal charge against her. She has pleaded not guilty. Two co-defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and at least one is expected to testify against her.

The potential juror questionnaire, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press, asks the potential jurors routine questions, such as their educational background and whether they've held management jobs before, but also whether they drink Coca-Cola products such as Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta or Dasani and, if so, how often. The potential jurors won't be excluded on the basis of how they answer that question alone, said Ms. Williams' defense lawyer, Janice Singer.

Ms. Williams, Edmund Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimson were indicted in July on the single federal charge of stealing new product samples and confidential documents from Coca-Cola and trying to sell them to Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc.

The alleged plans were foiled after Pepsi warned Coca-Cola and an undercover FBI investigation was launched.

Ms. Singer has said she plans to attack the credibility of Mr. Dimson and Mr. Duhaney, both convicted felons. But prosecutors say they have a strong case against Ms. Williams, including video surveillance showing her at her desk at Coke headquarters going through multiple files looking for documents and stuffing them into bags, according to court records.

The prosecution says a box with two undisclosed product samples and other confidential company papers was found in Mr. Duhaney's home during a search July 5, the day all three were arrested.

Coke has declined to give details about the samples, including which products they are for.


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