Government wants former Coke secretary jailed

Tuesday, February 6th 2007, 9:17 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ The government said in court papers Tuesday it believes a former Coca-Cola secretary convicted of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant should be jailed immediately because she poses a flight risk.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Assistant U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said clothing, prescription medication, papers and other personal items were found in Joya Williams' Mustang during a search after a fire destroyed her apartment Friday.

The fire, which has been ruled accidental by local officials in Norcross, occurred nearly 90 minutes after the guilty verdict was reached in federal court in Atlanta.

``With no place to live, with no money, with a significant amount of debt, and with the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence, the defendant poses a serious risk of flight,'' Pak argued in the motion.

Pak also indicated that while local fire investigators deemed Friday's fire was caused accidentally by an unattended candle igniting some curtains in a bedroom of Williams' apartment, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives continues to investigate the incident.

``Residents from the Hunters Pointe apartment complex reported that they heard what sounded like an argument from Williams' apartment and items may have been thrown through her apartment windows,'' Pak wrote.

Pak also said that Williams made inconsistent statements to investigators regarding her location and actions during the fire.

He added, ``Regardless of whether the fire was intentionally or accidentally set, the fact remains that the defendant no longer has a residence at which the pretrial release supervision can be maintained.''

In addition to being a flight risk, Pak's motion said Williams is a danger to the community. Among other things, the prosecutor cited Williams' alleged attempt to influence a witness' testimony at her trial.

During the trial, Williams' former boyfriend, Sedrick Wilson, testified that Williams contacted him nine days before jury selection began and asked him to lie about the contents of a package Williams sent to a co-defendant in the Coke case.

``When she was unsuccessful in swaying Mr. Wilson to alter his testimony, the defendant sent harassing and even threatening messages to Mr. Wilson,'' Pak wrote in his motion.

According to the motion, Williams sent a text message to Wilson two days after first contacting him about the package, stating, ``UR a monster. I love you in everyway. I knew how everyway I ever wanted to be loved. I gave to you & I never betrayed the man r the love.'' Two days after that, Williams sent another message to Wilson stating, ``I will pay you back.'' Wilson told authorities that the second message was a threat made by Williams because Wilson was unwilling to lie for her.

The government motion is seeking to force Williams to prove why she should not be remanded to the custody of federal marshals, and if she fails to do that, asks the court to order her jailed immediately. A hearing on the motion is set for Friday.

Williams, who was out on bond during her trial, currently remains free pending sentencing.

Williams, 41, faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to steal trade secrets from Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. in an effort to sell them to rival PepsiCo Inc. Late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester set sentencing for Williams and two co-defendants who pleaded guilty to conspiracy _ Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney _ for May 23.

Williams' defense lawyer, Janice Singer, said in a statement Tuesday that she e-mailed to The Associated Press that the ``government's motion and its timing shows its utter lack of compassion and consideration for those struck by tragedy and loss.''

``Other than the fire which consumed Ms. Williams' apartment and virtually everything she owns, nothing contained in the motion is new,'' Singer said.

Singer said her client has appeared at every hearing and the trial, and is not a flight risk.

``The government's action is heartless and cold. Just because she was convicted, doesn't mean she should be treated this way,'' Singer said.