President Donald Trump on Wednesday apologized to Anthony Levandowski, a former Google and Uber self-driving car engineer and expert who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August 2020 for stealing Google trade secrets.
Levandowski pioneered self-driving auto technology at Google and made millions. He left the company to start Otto, a self-driving truck startup, which he sold to hail giant Uber in 2016 for an estimated $ 680 million. A year later, Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, sued Uber for taking away thousands of Google files, including sensitive product designs, before leaving.
The companies eventually settled when Uber offered Waymo shares valued at nearly $ 250 million and agreed not to infringe on the company’s intellectual property.
In August 2019, Levandowski was charged with 33 theft and attempted theft by the federal prosecutor’s office. In March last year, Levandowski pleaded guilty to the theft of trade secrets and admitted having downloaded thousands of internal Google documents to his PC. In addition to the 18 month sentence, he was fined $ 95,000 and received a refund of $ 756,500. A judge agreed to let Levandowski out of jail until the coronavirus pandemic ended.
“Mr. Levandowski has paid a substantial price for his actions and plans to use his talents to advance the common good,” the White House said in a statement on the final day of Trump’s presidency, in which he, along with dozens of others, announced the pardon The White House called Levandowski “an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technologies.”
Supporters include Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, a longtime Trump supporter, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who once donated money to a nonprofit for Trump linked to the alt-right.
A Waymo spokesman declined to comment on Levandowski’s pardon. Uber did not respond to a request for comment.