An ex-convict who conspired to steal Coca-Cola trade secrets with the aim of selling them to Pepsi was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison.
U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester gave Edmund Duhaney a shorter sentence than the 37 months to 46 months recommended by federal sentencing guidelines because he pleaded guilty and helped the government convict a former Coca-Cola secretary who played a key role in the scheme.
Duhaney, 43, was expected to receive credit for the 11 months he has already served in custody since his arrest last July, according to his attorney.
"I am before you, today, wholeheartedly remorseful," Duhaney told the judge before he was sentenced.
Duhaney said the scheme was a mistake.
"This should have died where it started, a mere fantasy," Duhaney said.
Forrester's decision to give Duhaney a break followed a prosecutor's request on Friday to give him a lighter sentence than federal guidelines recommended.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in a court filing that because Duhaney pleaded guilty and testified against Joya Williams at her trial he deserved about a year shaved off his sentence.
"Having people that are willing to do what you did in this case is very important," Forrester told Duhaney.
Duhaney was also ordered to pay $40,000 restitution, serve three years on supervised probation after being released from prison and perform 40 hours of community service.
Last month, Forrester sentenced Williams to eight years in prison and co-defendant Ibrahim Dimson to five years, sentences that were longer than recommended. On Thursday, Williams' attorney notified the court that she was appealing her client's conviction and sentence.
The government said Williams, a secretary to Coca-Cola's global brand director at the company's Atlanta headquarters, stole confidential documents and samples of unlaunched products and gave them to Dimson and Duhaney to sell to rival Pepsico.
The conspiracy was foiled after Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc. warned The Coca-Cola Co. that it had received a letter in May 2006 offering Coca-Cola trade secrets to the "highest bidder." The FBI launched an undercover investigation and identified the letter writer as Dimson.
Duhaney's lawyer, Don Samuel, told the judge Tuesday that his client was essentially a go-between who introduced Williams to Dimson.
"He's clearly the least culpable," Samuel said in asking the judge to impose a 20-month sentence.
While he argued for leniency, Pak told the judge that Samuel was understating Duhaney's role in the crime.
Before his involvement in the Coke case, Duhaney served nearly five years of a seven-year sentence in federal prison on a cocaine charge. He was released in 2005.
Duhaney violated his supervised release on the prior conviction by being arrested in the Coke case. He faces another hearing at which another judge could tack on more time for him to serve.