Former Coca-Cola employee's trade secrets theft trial delayed

Monday, November 6th 2006, 3:25 pm
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) A federal judge has delayed by two months the trial of a former secretary for Coca-Cola who is charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from the world's largest beverage maker and trying to sell them to Pepsi, the woman's defense lawyer said Monday.

Joya Williams' trial was scheduled to begin next week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, where The Coca-Cola Co. is based, but instead has been delayed until January 15th at the request of the defense, Williams' lawyer, Janice Singer, told The Associated Press. The delay was sought in part to give Singer more time to prepare for trial.

The government indicated early on it was willing to offer Williams a plea deal to testify against co-defendants Edmund Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimson, but Williams refused and continues to maintain her innocence, Singer said. No specific deal has been offered since, Singer said, adding that her client would not take one even if it was.

``They made an overture at the very beginning of the case as to what they'd be willing to do, but again my client has maintained her innocence,'' Singer said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Patrick Crosby, declined to comment Monday on any plea discussions that may have taken place.

Dimson and Duhaney, meanwhile, pleaded guilty last month, and Duhaney will likely testify against Williams, a prosecutor has said.

It's not clear whether Dimson will testify against Williams. Dimson's plea was not part of a deal with the government.

During the plea hearing, Duhaney told the judge that Williams, a longtime friend, contacted him first and wanted to ``make things happen,'' while Dimson testified that Duhaney then contacted him to try to broker a deal with PepsiCo Inc.

``You heard what they said at their plea, and while that is certainly not helpful, I believe they are both highly impeachable,'' Singer said. ``Duhaney was recently released from prison. This is their only avenue to reduce their sentence by saying Joya was somehow involved.''

Williams, Dimson and Duhaney were indicted July 11 on federal conspiracy charges. The three were accused of stealing new product samples and confidential documents from Coca-Cola and trying to sell them to rival Pepsi.

The alleged plans were foiled after Pepsi, based in Purchase, N.Y., warned Coca-Cola.

The prosecution says a box containing two undisclosed Coca-Cola product samples and other confidential company documents was found in Duhaney's home during a search on July 5, the day all three were arrested and the same day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur. Documents were also found in Williams' home.

Fourteen pages of Coke's confidential ``marketing playbook'' were also found, prosecutors have said.

Coke has declined to reveal which product or products are linked to the samples.

Williams, who has since been fired as an administrative assistant for Coke's global brand director at its Atlanta headquarters, allegedly took the information from the company and gave it to Dimson and Duhaney.

Singer said Monday that Williams has been working odd jobs in recent months, but has also been spending a lot of time assisting in her defense.

``She wants to clear her name, and that is in the forefront of her thinking process,'' Singer said

Dimson and Duhaney both could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they're sentenced January 29, 2007.

Williams does not have a criminal record. Dimson and Duhaney both served time in federal prison, Dimson on a bank fraud charge, Duhaney on a cocaine charge.