Donald Trump is on his way out of the White House, but that didn’t stop him from pardoning 73 people and commuting the sentences of another 70 people on the last day of his presidency.
One name on that list is Anthony Levandowski, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets from the Google-owned, self-driving car company Waymo.
Levandowski was a co-founder of Google’s self-driving car division before leaving the tech giant in 2016 to start a self-driving truck company called Otto. That company was subsequently acquired by Uber, and Waymo filed a lawsuit alleging that their confidential information ended up in the hands of Uber. Levandowski was looking at a 10-year sentence, but he eventually pleaded guilty to trade secret theft, thus reducing his prison sentence. The start of his sentence was ultimately delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Levandowski has also agreed to pay $756,000 to Google, plus a fine of $95,000, but that’s small change compared to the $179 million fine he was ordered to pay Google for poaching its employees (though Levandowski is trying to get Uber to pay that particular fine).
In a press release, the White House named several notable entrepreneurs, including PayPal and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, as being supportive of the pardon.
“Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology,” the press release says. “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.”
Other pardoned individuals on the list include rapper Lil Wayne, who was serving a prison sentence over firearm possession charges, and Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, who served as Trump’s chief strategist during the first seven months of his term. Bannon was in prison for mail fraud and money laundering.