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[ISN] Ex-Coke secretary gets 8 years in secrets case


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An emotional apology from an ex-Coca Cola secretary convicted of 
stealing confidential documents in a plot to sell them to archrival 
Pepsi failed to strike a sympathetic chord with a federal judge on 

Joya Williams, of Norcross, landed an eight-year prison term from U.S. 
District Court Judge J. Owen Forrester, who exceeded sentencing 
guidelines that were based on a formula and prosecutors' recommendation.

A co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson, of New York, got a five-year prison term 
also longer than sentencing guidelines based on factors such as criminal 
history and cooperation with judicial authorities.

Both were ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution.

Sentencing of a third defendant, Edmund Duhaney, of Decatur, was delayed 
until his lawyer completes another trial.

A tearful Williams, 42, doled out remorse to nearly everyone connected 
to the case, from Coke to the judge to the prosecutors to her family.

To Forrester, she said, "I really am sorry for any disrespect I showed 
you in this courtroom. I ask for your mercy as I attempt to move 

Forrester appeared unmoved. "I can't think of a case I've had in 25 
years that has had more obstruction of justice," he said.

He accused Williams of lying and, reeling off dollar figures from Coke's 
balance sheet, alluded to vast potential damage suffered by the company 
had its competitor obtained the documents and found them useful.

Prosecutors say Pepsi contacted Coke after getting an offer of $1.5 
million for proprietary materials. Coke arranged with the FBI for an 
undercover agent to meet with Dimson, who received a down payment in 
cash crammed inside a Girl Scout box. Dimson then turned over to the 
agent documents in an Armani bag, leading to the three conspirators' 

"The judge's sentence was harsh," said Janice Singer, Williams' lawyer. 
She questioned the prosecution's description of the documents as trade 
secrets, saying some were not even stamped confidential, and believed 
the guideline range of 5 to 6 years was appropriate.

She said she'll appeal the sentence as well as the conviction.

Williams "has maintained from the beginning that, when she took the 
documents home, it was not with the intent to harm Coca-Cola," said 
Singer, adding that her client was "just not thinking straight."

Anna Blitz, representing Dimson, said she's leaning toward an appeal of 
the sentence.

"We're disappointed," she said. "The judge went outside the guideline 
range [of three to nearly four years]. There was no reason for him to do 

Unlike Williams, who went to trial, Dimson pled guilty early on, and the 
judge lauded him for cooperating. Dimson has a felony conviction for 
cocaine dealing, while Williams has no prior felonies on her record.

Assistant federal prosecutor Randy Chartash acknowledged that it is 
unusual for judges to surpass sentencing guidelines but found the terms 

"He thought it was an extremely serious offense," Chartash said. 
"Stealing secrets puts major companies . . . in jeopardy."

Fellow prosecutor BJay Pak also found the sentences unsurprising, even 
though his office recommended terms within the guidelines.

As for Williams' apology, "It seemed sincere, but it came too late."

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