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May 23, 2007

A highly caffinated sentence for dirty coke dealing

As detailed in stories from the AP and Bloomberg, a federal district judge today decided to throw the book at the former Coca-Cola secretary convicted of conspiring to steal the company's trade secrets (background here).   Here are the highlights from the AP:

Joya Williams, 42, had faced up to 10 years in prison on the single conspiracy charge in a failed scheme to sell the materials to rival Pepsi for at least $1.5 million.  She was convicted Feb. 2 following a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, where Coca-Cola Co. is based.

"This is the kind of offence that cannot be tolerated in our society," U.S. District Judge Owen Forrester said in imposing sentence. A co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Forrester's sentence for Williams was more severe than the 63-to 78-month sentence recommended by federal prosecutors and federal sentencing guidelines.  He said the seriousness of the crime necessitated a departure from the guidelines, which federal judges are not bound by. "I can't think of another case in 25 years that there's been so much obstruction of justice," the judge said of Williams' conduct.  Forrester largely ignored a tearful apology by Williams, which was the first time she acknowledged what she did.

May 23, 2007 at 02:07 PM | Permalink


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"I can't think of another case in 25 years that there's been so much obstruction of justice."

If the judge needs suggestions, surely we could oblige. For cripes sake. The lady stole a valuable piece of property and tried not to get convicted. She did not, as in Enron, have a huge accounting firm and large law firms assisting her in destroying evidence in an effort to not get caught in the first place. She did not arrange to have potential witnesses killed -- something that has happened in a number of recent gang cases here in Denver. She did not threaten to harm to judge or jury. She didn't even try to bribe them. She didn't even successfully carry out her crime -- while she is charged with conspiracy, attempt better fits the bill.

Not admitting guilt when you are facing criminal charges is sort of standard operating procedure in my neck of the woods when you are guilty and charged. Indeed, a criminal defense based upon that approach is specifically authorized by the model rules of professional conduct.

Stealing something worth $1.5 million and trying to fence it is a relatively serious crime. Certainly more serious than say, car theft. But, if nothing worse has come along in 24 years, life must be pretty dull in Atlanta.

Posted by: ohwilleke | May 24, 2007 4:57:07 PM

Caveat: Lying to the judge and jury at trial and sentencing is stupid (and we assume not condoned or even known with certainty by her lawyer), and even more stupid when you will get caught doing it. Still hardly the worst thing federal courts have seen in a quarter century.

Posted by: ohwilleke | May 24, 2007 5:01:30 PM

I'm fairly certain Judge Forrester was referring to cases he personally presided over, since he's been on the court exactly 25 years.

Posted by: anonymous | May 24, 2007 5:41:07 PM

The facts of each case can vary widely as to exact nature of the underlying scheme. In the above example, a common fact pattern could be that widgets are necessary equipment needed for Smith, Inc. to manufacture its product, and Brown & Associates is a competitor of Smith,Inc.

How the conspirators entice one another into the scheme also varies with each case. One fact pattern for the above example would be Brown & Associates promises Jones, Corp. (the supplier of widgets) to give Jones part of the additional profits that Brown hopes to make if Smith, Inc goes out of business because it lacks the necessary widgets.

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Forrester largely ignored a tearful apology by Williams, which was the first time she acknowledged what she did.

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