A former Coca-Cola secretary who was convicted of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant was ordered to jail Friday over concerns that she could be a flight risk.
U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester told Joya Williams that her behavior since her arrest in July has showed that she “would do anything to avoid going to jail.”
“You have utter disregard for the law,” Forrester said during the two-hour hearing in federal court. “I could not trust you on your word.”
Williams, 41, who had been free on bond pending sentencing, was immediately taken into custody. She posted a $3,000 bond following her arrest in July, according to court records.
It wasn’t immediately clear if she would receive the money back now.
She faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to steal trade secrets from Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. and sell them to rival PepsiCo. Inc. The sentencing for Williams and two co-defendants who pleaded guilty to conspiracy — Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney — is set for May 23.
Her attorney, Janice Singer, has said she will appeal the verdict.
Federal prosecutors filed papers Tuesday asking for the immediate jailing of Williams after investigators found clothing, prescription medication, papers and other personal items in her Mustang following a fire that destroyed her apartment a week ago. The fire, which started in Williams’ apartment but was ruled accidental, occurred nearly 90 minutes after she was found guilty in federal court in Atlanta.
Forrester chastised Williams for lying on the witness stand and to federal investigators on several occasions, and said her credibility was a problem throughout the trial. He also was concerned that she sent threatening text messages to her former boyfriend Sedrick Wilson after he declined her requests that he lie under oath.
“This is a federal court, and in federal court, we don’t play,” the judge said.
U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said that Williams told fire investigators that she was “high as a kite” from mixing prescription medications with an entire bottle of cough medicine before the verdict last week. Pak said Williams also lied to fire investigators several times about her whereabouts when the fire started.
“In stressful situations, she is proven to act unpredictably,” Pak told the judge.
Singer called the government’s claim that her client is a risk to the community and a risk of flight “more than offensive.”
“She has met all of the conditions of her bond,” Singer told the judge.
She pointed to witness testimony that Williams’ car was “junky” and always full of clothing and other items. She said Williams had no intention of fleeing after the fire because she left her keys and cell phone in her apartment.
Singer declined to make further comment after the hearing.
After the judge’s decision, Williams’ tearful family and friends huddled in the hallway outside the courtroom talking quietly.
Several family members and friends declined comment.