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Ex-boyfriend says Coke suspect asked him to lie

An ex-boyfriend of a former Coca-Cola secretary charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant testified Tuesday that the defendant wanted him to lie for her about a package she had sent to another man accused in the case.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An ex-boyfriend of a former Coca-Cola secretary charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant testified Tuesday that the defendant wanted him to lie for her about a package she had sent to another man accused in the case.

Sedrick Wilson said Joya Williams sent him a text message on Jan. 7, nine days before jury selection began in her trial, saying that it was “beyond important” that he call her.

The subject, Wilson said, was a package she sent via FedEx to Ibrahim Dimson, a co-defendant in the case, during the first half of 2006. Wilson said he was with Williams when the shipment was sent.

“She said, ’Make sure you say that it was for the trucking company,”’ Wilson recalled of his recent conversation with Williams.

Wilson testified he didn’t know what was in the package.

“I guess she wanted me to lie for her,” Wilson said. A defense lawyer objected, and U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester ruled the comment out of consideration by the jury.

Williams has been free on bond leading up to the trial and during it.

The government did not say during Wilson’s testimony what it believed was in the package, but a prosecutor asserted during a conference outside the presence of the jury that the text message and subsequent conversation show consciousness of guilt on Williams’ part. Defense lawyer Janice Singer objected to allowing the testimony, but Forrester let it in.

The government has alleged that Williams took confidential documents and samples of products that Coca-Cola was developing and gave them to Dimson and another co-defendant, Edmund Duhaney. Dimson and Duhaney have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.

Earlier Tuesday, Duhaney, a key witness against Williams, admitted he lied to FBI agents when he was first questioned on July 5.

“You also told them you weren’t sure where Joya Williams worked. That was a lie, right?” Singer asked.

“Yeah,” Duhaney responded.

Singer also questioned whether Duhaney was only testifying that Williams spearheaded the scheme in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

“Is it your hope in this case the government will file a motion for a lower sentence and that you will receive a lower sentence?” Singer asked.

“My hope in this case is that the truth will be told and that Judge (J. Owen) Forrester will make the final decision,” Duhaney responded.

“You think you were a small player, right?” Singer said.

“I wasn’t a small player,” Duhaney responded. “I was involved. I didn’t force anybody to do anything. I didn’t steal anything.”

Also Tuesday, the government played a recording of a June 29, 2006, conversation between Duhaney and Dimson in which they discuss some of the products under development by Coca-Cola that they were seeking to sell information about to Pepsi.

They included Vitamin Mineral 506, Healthy Green Tea, Plus 4 Omega, Lemon Hydration and Plus 2 Green Tea Diet. Those names likely were not what the final names of the products Coca-Cola was developing would be but only how Coca-Cola referred to them internally during the development process.

Williams faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the single federal conspiracy charge against her. She has pleaded not guilty.

Williams, Duhaney and 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.

Coca-Cola had declined to say what product or products the samples relate to. But Duhaney’s testimony shed some light on the products. On Monday, he testified that one product Williams had information about was Coca-Cola Blak, which Coca-Cola launched in January 2006.

The three suspects were hoping to get at least $1.5 million for the scheme, according to a taped phone call between Duhaney and Dimson that was played in court Monday. On the call, the two men discuss how to split the money.

Williams was expected to get a cut of up to $150,000, according to another recorded call between Dimson and Duhaney played in court Tuesday.

The alleged conspiracy was 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. That executive, Javier Sanchez Lamelas, testified Tuesday that there was no reason for Williams to take confidential Coca-Cola information home with her.

During her opening statement in the trial on Monday, Singer referred to Dimson and Duhaney as “two seasoned liars, con men who took advantage of Joya Williams.”

Singer said Duhaney’s deal with the government is his “whole motive in this case” for testifying against Williams.

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.