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Levandowski among dozens of last-day Trump pardon recipients

Jan. 20, 2021
The self-driving technology engineer was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for stealing autonomous trade secrets from Google.

Former self-driving technology engineer Anthony Levandowski, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets from Google, was among the more than 70 people pardoned by President Donald Trump during his final hours in office.

Levandowski, who most recently was the CEO of Level 2 automated technology company Pronto.ai when he was indicted in 2019, was among 73 people pardoned by Trump on Jan. 19. The outgoing president also commuted the sentences of 70 others. 

Pronto replaced Levandowski after the U.S. attorney’s office of the Northern District of California filed 33 criminal charges against him related to stealing trade secrets from Google’s subsidiary Waymo related to self-driving technology. In a statement at the time, Pronto said: “The criminal charges filed against Anthony relate exclusively to lidar and do not in any way involve Pronto’s ground-breaking technology.”

The engineer reached a plea deal in March 2020, in which he admitted to downloading thousands of files from Google related to its self-driving technology. Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison, which was delayed until the COVID-19 pandemic was under control. He also agreed to pay Waymo more than $750,000 in restitution and a $95,000 fine.

“President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski,” reads a statement posted by the White House on Jan. 20. “This pardon is strongly supported by James Ramsey, Peter Thiel, Miles Ehrlich, Amy Craig, Michael Ovitz, Palmer Luckey, Ryan Petersen, Ken Goldberg, Mike Jensen, Nate Schimmel, Trae Stephens, Blake Masters, and James Proud, among others. Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology. Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. 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.”

Levandowski first gained notoriety for building a driverless motorcycle. He worked on Google’s self-driving car project before he co-founded Otto, the company acquired by Uber famous for its autonomous beer delivery in Colorado.

In 2017, Google sued Uber, leading to Levandowski departing the company and Uber settling for about $245 million.

Levandowski’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing, saying that any file downloads took place while still working at Google.

However, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg News in 2019 it appears as if Levandowski took information on self-driving cars from Google. Khosrowshahi was not with Uber during the time of the dispute with Google. 

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