Former US president Donald Trump pardoned former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski – who stole trade secrets from Google – as part of 73 final pardons on his last day in office.
Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison last year after he plead guilty to stealing trade secrets from Googles’ self-driving team.
A former Google engineer, Levandowski left the tech giant to create his own autonomous trucking company – but not before downloading 14,000 files about the technology from his employer.
He was initially indicted on 33 counts for stealing the trade secrets but plead the charges down.
In a statement, the White House named investors and entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel and Occulus VR founder Palmer Luckey as supporters of Levandowski’s pardon.
“Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology,” the White House said.
“Notably, his sentencing judge called him a “brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.”
“Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”
My family and I are grateful for the opportunity to move forward, and thankful to the President and others who supported and advocated on my behalf.— Anthony Levandowski (@antlevandowski) January 20, 2021
Prosecutor at Levandowski’s trial, Katherine Wawrzyniak, said Levandowski’s brilliance was no excuse for his actions, according to TechCruch.
“It was wrong for him to take all of these files, and it erases the contributions of many, many other people that have also put their blood, sweat and tears into this project that makes a safer self-driving car,” Wawrzyniak said at the time.
“When someone [is] as brilliant as Mr Levandowski and as focused on his mission to create self-driving cars to make the world safer and better, and that somehow excuses his actions, that’s wrong.”
In 2016, taxi company Uber acquired Otto, the firm Levandowski founded after he left Google.
But Waymo, the Alphabet-owned company spun out of Google’s self-driving efforts, soon jumped on Uber, accusing it of knowingly stealing Waymo’s technology through the acquisition of Levandowski’s company.
After a short court battle, the two companies settled in a deal that saw Waymo get 0.34 per cent of Uber’s stock, worth about US$245 million at the time.