ATLANTA - One hundred potential jurors filed into a federal courtroom yesterday for the start of the conspiracy trial of a former Coca-Cola Co. secretary accused of stealing trade secrets from the world's largest beverage-maker to sell them to rival Pepsi.
The potential jurors answered questions from U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester about whether they work for or have relatives who work for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, then filled out a questionnaire drafted by the attorneys in the case and were sent home for the day.
Individual questioning of potential jurors by the defense attorneys and prosecutors will begin today, and opening statements are scheduled for Monday. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
Joya Williams, who was fired from her job as an administrative assistant to Coca-Cola's global brand director after the allegations came to light, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the single federal charge against her. She has pleaded not guilty. Two codefendants have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and at least one is expected to testify against her.
Williams, Edmund Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimson were indicted in July on the single federal charge involving stealing new product samples and confidential documents from Coca-Cola and trying to sell them to Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc.
The alleged plans were foiled after Pepsi warned Coca-Cola and an undercover FBI investigation was launched.
Williams' defense attorney, Janice Singer, has said she plans to attack the credibility of Dimson and Duhaney.
The two men 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.