Ex-Secretary Gets 8-Year Sentence for Trying to Sell Coke Secrets to Pepsi

A former Coca-Cola (KO) secretary convicted of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the world's largest beverage maker was sentenced Wednesday to 8 years in federal prison.

Joya Williams, 42, had faced up to 10 years in prison on the single conspiracy charge in a failed scheme to sell the materials to rival Pepsi (PEP) for at least $1.5 million. She was convicted Feb. 2 following a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, where The Coca-Cola Co. is based.

"This is the kind of offense that cannot be tolerated in our society," U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester said in imposing sentence.

A co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson, was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Forrester's sentence for Williams was more severe than the 63- to 78-month sentence recommended by federal prosecutors and also what is contained in sentencing guidelines for the judge to consider.

He said the seriousness of the crime necessitated a departure from the guidelines, which federal judges are not bound by.

Forrester also largely ignored a tearful apology by Williams, which was the first time she acknowledged what she did.

"I just wanted to say that I'm not a bad person," Williams told the judge before he imposed sentence. "I'm really not."

She added, "I am sorry to Coke and I'm sorry to my boss and to you and to my family as well."