Trump Pardons Former Google, Uber Engineer Anthony Levandowski

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In one of his last acts as president of the United States, Donald Trump early Wednesday issued 143 pardons and commutations—including former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, rapper Lil Wayne, and ex-Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski.

Known for advancing the field of autonomous vehicles and pleading guilty to stealing trade secrets from Google before taking over Uber’s self-driving unit, Levandowski was sentenced in August to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay a $95,000 fine and nearly $756,500 in restitution. Today, he was granted a full pardon—before ever stepping foot in a jail cell. His sentence was set to begin at a later, undetermined date, after the risks of COVID-19 subsided.

Levandowski’s pardon, according to the White House, is “strongly supported” by high-profile tech entrepreneurs Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey, as well as other business figures including James Ramsey, Miles Ehrlich, Amy Craig, Michael Ovitz, Ryan Petersen, Ken Goldbert, 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,” a White House press release said. “Notably, his sentencing judge [William Alsup] 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.”

Alsup, nominated in 1999 by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the US District Court for the Northern District of California, also dubbed Levandowski’s offense “the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.” “This was not small,” he said at the time. “This was massive in scale.” As Forbes pointed out, the judge denied Levandowski’s request for home confinement, saying that anything short of incarceration would give a “green light” for “every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets. Prison time is the answer to that.”

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