Risk & Compliance

Trump Pardons Ex-Google Engineer

Anthony Levandowski, a pioneer in autonomous vehicles, was found guilty of what one judge called "the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen."
Lauren MuskettJanuary 20, 2021

U.S. President Donald Trump issued 73 full pardons Tuesday, including one to former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who led efforts to create autonomous vehicles and was a founding member of Google’s self-driving automobile project, Project Chauffeur.

Levandowski left Google in 2016 to found Otto, a self-driving truck company, which was later purchased by Uber. He was fired from Uber in 2017 after Google alleged he had illegally copied thousands of documents. He was charged with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google.

His pardon was supported by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, an ally of Trump, as well as Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and Creative Artists Agency founder Michael Ovitz.

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“Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good,” the White House said in a statement.

Judge William Alsup sentenced Levandowski to 18 months in prison in August, however Levandowski did not serve any of his sentence after Alsup, citing the COVID-19 epidemic, allowed it to be delayed indefinitely. At the time, Alsup called the case, “the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

In March, Levandowski had plead guilty to one count of theft of trade secrets after reaching a deal with prosecutors. At the time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Wawrzyniak said the theft “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.”

Said Levandowski: “My family and I are grateful for the opportunity to move forward, and thankful to the President and others who supported [me] and advocated on my behalf.”

In addition to the pardons, Trump commuted the sentences of 70 individuals. Other pardon recipients included Trump’s former chief strategist and Breitbart founder Steve Bannon and former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy.

Trump did not pardon himself or his family members.