May 24, 2007
Eight-Year Sentence for Former Coke Employee in Trade Secrets Case
A former executive administrative assistant at the Coca-Cola Co. convicted of conspiracy to steal trade secrets and sell them to rival PepsiCo. received an eight-year prison sentence. The Sentencing Guidelines called for a sentence of 63 to 78 months, but U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester gave a higher sentence, stating that "I can't think of another case in 25 years that there's been so much obstruction of justice." A co-defendant who entered a guilty plea and testified for the government received a five-year sentence for his role in trying to sell the information for $1.5 million. A third coconspirator awaits sentencing. As is common in white collar crime cases, the defendant who chooses to go to trial usually receives a higher sentence, although in this case the assistant testified at trial that she was not involved in the scheme but then acknowledged what she did at sentencing. While the Sentencing Guidelines include a increase for obstruction of justice, in their current advisory state the judge can impose a higher or lower sentence if it meets the criterion of reasonableness. The assistant's plea for mercy fell on deaf ears in this case. An AP story (here) and press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia (here) discuss the sentencing. (ph)
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None of these links seems to give much of an indication into what the judge meant by his "most obstruction of justice in 25 years" comment.
It would seem to boil down to the defendant pleading innocence in the face of overwhelmingly damning evidence, in addition to lying in court about her prior convictions. One or the other probably would not have been enough to have merited her punishment, but the two combined makes for a very unhappy judge.
Odd though that the punishment is highlighted yet no real explanations offered.
Posted by: jps | May 24, 2007 6:58:55 AM