ATLANTA – A former Coca-Cola secretary spearheaded a conspiracy to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant in a case about "greed and poor choices," a prosecutor said Monday during opening statements in the woman's trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Chartash told jurors that Joya Williams was the one who first approached two co-defendants in the case in late 2005 about selling Coca-Cola documents and samples of products that hadn't been launched to rival Pepsi.
"She says the documents are worth something to a competitor," Chartash said, referring to a meeting between Williams and a co-defendant.
Williams faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the single federal conspiracy charge against her. She has pleaded not guilty. Williams remains free on bond pending the outcome of the trial. Two co-defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and at least one is expected to testify against her.
Williams, Edmund Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimson were indicted in July, accused of stealing new product samples and confidential documents from The Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell them to Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc.
The alleged plans were foiled after Pepsi warned Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and an undercover FBI investigation was launched.
Williams was fired from her job as an administrative assistant to Coca-Cola's global brand director after the allegations came to light.
Among the key evidence against Williams, according to Chartash: a $4,000 deposit Williams made into her bank account, voicemail messages between Williams and the co-defendants and surveillance video of Williams at her desk at Coca-Cola headquarters.
Chartash showed jurors during his opening statement some of that surveillance video, on which Williams is seen stuffing documents in a bag and taking a bottle with a liquid in it.
But defense lawyer Janice Singer said the case is really about two ex-cons who duped Williams, stole documents from her and conspired behind her back.
"The evidence will show she was not involved in any way, shape or form in a conspiracy with Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney to steal trade secrets from Coke," Singer said.
Singer referred to Dimson and Duhaney as "two seasoned liars, con men who took advantage of Joya Williams."
Singer said Duhaney, who will be a key witness against Williams, cut a deal with the government in hopes of a lesser sentence. Singer said that's Duhaney's "whole motive in this case."
Dimson and Duhaney served prison terms at the same time at a federal penitentiary in Montgomery, Ala. Duhaney served nearly five years of a seven-year sentence on a cocaine charge before being released in 2005; Dimson served less than one year of a two-year sentence on a bank fraud charge before his release in 2004.
Williams does not have a criminal record, another attorney who previously represented her has said.
Before the opening statements, U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester advised the 12 jurors that for a conviction the government must prove that Williams engaged in a conspiracy and committed at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
"They have to prove it was more than just talk," Forrester said.
The judge also noted the issue is not whether what was taken were trade secrets, but what the defendant believed them to be.
Coca-Cola officials and Williams' family members, including her father, George, were in the courtroom for the opening statements.
Jury selection began last Tuesday. The trial is expected to last another week or two.