Trade secrets trial for Coke gets under way

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ATLANTA (AP) – A former Coca-Cola secretary charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage giant was caught on surveillance cameras removing documents from her office last June, sometimes late into the evening.

A Coca-Cola security expert testified Friday at Joya Williams’ trial that a handful of concealed cameras were installed at the Atlanta-based company’s headquarters to monitor Williams’ movements in different parts of the sprawling complex.

The surveillance video, played for the jury on Friday, was made after Pepsi received a letter last May purportedly from a co-defendant in the case stating that the person was willing to sell confidential Coca-Cola documents and samples of products that Coca-Cola was developing to the highest bidder.

The government has alleged that Williams stole the materials from The Coca-Cola Co. and gave them to co-defendants 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.

Williams faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy. Dimson and Duhaney have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

The surveillance that Coca-Cola conducted of Williams is a key part of the government’s evidence against her.

Coca-Cola security expert Deborah Casey testified Friday that surveillance cameras were running between June 7, 2006, and July 5, 2006, the day Williams was arrested.

Video images displayed in court Friday show Williams placing papers in her bag, holding drink bottles in her hand, placing bottles on a cart in a confidential document room and stuffing gift tote bags in her personal bag. Some of the times she was removing materials occurred at night, between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Janice Singer, Casey said that other video clips show Williams doing routine work at her desk, making phone calls and carrying on her normal work day.

Casey also acknowledged that on June 27, when Williams is seen removing a box full of documents from the building, the box is open, and Williams walked past security with it. The lawyer is trying to show there was nothing nefarious about what Williams was doing.

Williams, who has pleaded not guilty, was fired from her job as an administrative assistant to Coca-Cola’s global brand director after the allegations came to light.

Her former boss at Coke, Javier Sanchez Lamelas, testified Thursday that he didn’t believe Williams had the know-how to commit the crime on her own.

The government is expected to wrap up its case Monday, prosecutor Byung J. Pak told U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester on Friday.

The defense will then have an opportunity to present its case. It’s not clear if Williams will testify in her own defense.

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