Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump has pardoned Anthony Levandowski, a former engineer at Google's autonomous driving unit Waymo who was convicted of stealing trade secrets, shaving off more than a year of his prison sentence.
The pardon was supported by venture capitalist and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, virtual-reality developer Palmer Luckey and former Disney executive Michael Ovitz, among others, according to a statement from the White House on Tuesday.
“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,” the White House said in a statement.
In August, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco ordered Levandowski to spend 18 months in prison, concluding one of the highest-profile criminal cases to hit Silicon Valley and describing it as “the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”
Levandowski had pleaded guilty to trade secret theft.
Levandowski, who worked for both Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report, the parent company of Google, and Uber (UBER) - Get Report on self-driving car technology, was indicted in August 2019 for theft of trade secrets from Google's Waymo division.
The criminal complaint alleged that Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 documents concerning Google's self-driving car technology before leaving in 2016. Levandowski, who is considered a leading engineer in the self-driving space, was charged with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets.
Soon after leaving Google, Levandowski founded Otto, a self-driving truck startup. He then sold the company to Uber two months later.