ATLANTA: US District Judge J Owen Forrester was not in lenient mode when former Coca-Cola secretary Joya Williams (42) was brought before him for sentencing.

It seems His Honor places a high premium on protecting the commercial secrets of the Coca-Cola Company - so much so that he overrode federal guidelines when sentencing the hapless Willams to an eight-year jail term. "This is the kind of offense that cannot be tolerated in our society," Forrester fulminated.

Convicted in February of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage maker and sell them to its main rival PepsiCo, Williams insisted on her innocence throughout the trial. Appearing before the court for sentencing she belatedly and tearfully acknowledged her guilt.

"Your honor, I have expanded my consciousness through this devastating experience. This has been a very defining moment in my life. I have become infamous when I never wanted to become famous," she told the unmoved judge.

She added: "I am sorry to Coke and I'm sorry to my boss and to you and to my family as well."

Williams' co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson, was sentenced to five years in prison, while a third conspirator Edmund Duhaney will be sentenced later.

Williams' lawyers said she plans to appeal.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff