Trump pardons convicted ex-Google engineer Anthony Levandowski

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Letters to the editor — Jan. 16, 2021

President Trump pardoned a former Google engineer who was convicted of what a federal judge called the “biggest trade secret crime” he had ever seen.

Anthony Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison last August for stealing documents from Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, before he went to work for ride-hailing giant Uber.

Trump granted him a full pardon early Wednesday morning because he had “paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good,” according to a statement from the White House.

“My family and I are grateful for the opportunity to move forward, and thankful to the President and others who supported and advocated on my behalf,” Levandowski said on Twitter.

Several tech industry figures “strongly supported” Levandowski’s pardon, including venture capitalist Peter Thiel, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and Hollywood agent-turned-investor Michael Ovitz, the White House said.

The White House also noted that US District Judge William Alsup called Levandowski, 40, a “brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs” when he handed down his prison sentence.

But the statement didn’t mention that Alsup refused to give Levandowski a lighter penalty because doing so would have given “a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets,” he said.

“This was the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen,” Alsup said in court. “This was not small. This was massive in scale.”

Alsup had allowed Levandowski to wait until the coronavirus pandemic had subsided to start his prison term.

The feds accused Levandowski of downloading 14,000 Waymo files as he prepared to leave Google in 2016. He then formed an autonomous trucking company called Otto that was promptly acquired by Uber.

Levandowski was facing 33 counts, with a maximum sentence of 10 years apiece, but pleaded guilty last March to just one, which accused him of downloading to his personal computer a file that tracked technical goals for Google’s self-driving project.

Levandowski admitted that he downloaded the file with the intent to use it to benefit himself and Uber, prosecutors have said. He’s also been ordered to pay $179 million to Google, a punishment that led him to file for bankruptcy.

Levandowski was among 143 people who received pardons or commutations from Trump on Wednesday, a list that also includes rapper Lil Wayne and former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

With Post wires

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