Donald Trump pardons ex-Waymo, Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski

A slew of pardons issued as Trump exits the White House included a man convicted for stealing autonomous car technology.

Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski gives a statement to reporters after a court appearance at the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on September 24, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

Last year Anthony Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count of stealing materials from Google, where he was an engineer for its self-driving car efforts before leaving to found a startup that he sold to Uber. The judge said during his sentencing that his theft of documents and emails constituted the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

Now, on the last day of Donald Trump’s administration, Trump issued a series of pardons — the Department of Justice has more information on how those work here — and commutations that covered people who worked on his campaign like Steve Bannon and Elliott Broidy, as well as Levandowski.

A press release from the White House noted tech billionaires Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey were among those supporting a pardon for Levandowski, and it makes the claim that this engineer “paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.” It also noted that his plea covered only a single charge, omitting mention of the 33 charges he’d been indicted on.

He had been sentenced to 18 months in prison, but as TechCrunch reported at the time, was not required to report until the COVID-19 pandemic eased. A court ordered Levandowski to pay Google $179 million to resolve a contract dispute, while his plea included $756,499 in restitution and a $95,000 fine. A settlement between Uber and Google’s subsidiary Waymo handed over an equity stake worth about $245 million at the time, as well as a promise not to use the technology taken from Google. In December, Uber sold its entire self-driving unit to another company, Aurora.

White House Press Secretary:

Anthony Levandowski – President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski. 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.