A former Coca-Cola secretary was deeply in debt, unhappy in her job and seeking a big payday, so she conspired to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant in an effort to sell them to rival Pepsi, a prosecutor said Wednesday during closing arguments in the woman’s trial.
But Joya Williams’ lawyer asked jurors to use their common sense and ask themselves if the government has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“They have absolutely, 100 percent failed to meet that burden,” Janice Singer said during her closing argument.
Jurors deliberated Williams’ fate for about 3½ hours Wednesday afternoon before being sent home for the day without reaching a verdict. Deliberations were to resume Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said Wednesday that the case against Williams is about cash, ongoing access to documents, lies and acts in furtherance of the crime. He put the words on a screen for the jury, using the first letter of each of the four categories to spell “C-O-L-A.”
“This case is about desperate times calling for desperate criminal measures,” Pak said.
He added, “Ladies and gentlemen, she is a knowing and willing participant in the conspiracy.”
The government has alleged that Williams, 41, stole confidential documents and samples of products that hadn’t been launched from The Coca-Cola Co. and gave them to Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney as part of a conspiracy to sell the items to Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc. for at least $1.5 million.
Dimson and Duhaney have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Duhaney testified previously that Williams spearheaded the scheme. Dimson did not testify.
Williams was fired as a secretary to Coca-Cola’s global brand director at the company’s Atlanta headquarters after the allegations came to light.
During two days on the stand earlier this week, Williams testified that she didn’t steal anything from Coke, but rather took documents and product samples home to protect herself in case her boss questioned whether she was doing her job.
She also claimed that $4,000 in cash she deposited into her bank account in June 2006, just days after Dimson was given $30,000 in cash from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for Coke materials, came from a friend, not from Dimson.
But the friend, Clifton Carroll, testified Tuesday that Williams was lying; he said the most money he ever loaned her was $400, and that was after her July 5 arrest.
Williams’ credibility will be an issue for the jury to weigh during its deliberations.
Williams’ lawyer has suggested that Dimson and Duhaney stole the documents and product samples from Williams without her knowledge and conspired to sell them to Pepsi behind her back. Williams testified she left a key under her doormat for one of the co-defendants, perhaps explaining how they could have gotten into her home.
But Pak said during his closing argument Wednesday that the key under the mat claim was another lie told by Williams.
“The fact of the matter was there was no key under the mat,” Pak told jurors. “That did not happen. Mr. Dimson had an insider, and that was Ms. Williams.”
Defense lawyer Singer told jurors the real liar in the case is Duhaney, when he claimed on the stand that the conspiracy was Williams’ idea.
“I think it is clear Mr. Duhaney has no problem lying,” Singer said.
She noted Duhaney, an ex-con who met Dimson in federal prison, testified as part of a plea agreement with the government. Dimson had served time on a bank fraud charge, while Duhaney had served time on a cocaine charge.
“It gives him a motive to lie,” Singer said of Duhaney, referring to his plea deal in the Coke case. “But Mr. Duhaney doesn’t really need a motive to lie. He has a pattern of lying.”
Before heading home Wednesday, the jury asked U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester whether Williams is married. The jury didn’t say why it wanted to know. Williams had testified she is single, though on a form she filled out listing personal information on the day she started working at Coke — March. 7, 2005 — she circled “married.” Her attorney told reporters outside court that she doesn’t know if Williams was married in the past.