Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Trump's Pardon Blitz Keeps Ex-Google Exec Out of Prison for Stealing Secrets
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 3 years ago on
January 21, 2021

Share

SAN RAMON — A long-running Silicon Valley soap opera took an unexpected twist on Wednesday after outgoing President Donald Trump pardoned a former Google engineer for stealing self-driving car secrets shortly before joining Uber.

Trump’s surprise pardon of Anthony Levandowski enables him to avoid serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison that U.S. District Judge William Alsup left no doubt last summer he believed was warranted.

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

Levandowski pled guilty to heisting some of Google’s breakthroughs in self-driving cars before he left the company in 2016 and later joined Uber to help the ride-hailing service build its own robotic vehicles.

In a statement about Levandowski’s pardon, the Trump administration cited other comments that Alsup made about the engineer’s brilliant mind. “Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good,” the statement said.

While in office, Trump railed against China’s alleged theft of technology developed in the U.S. as one of the main reasons for his administration’s trade war with that county.

Levandowski didn’t land in prison after his sentencing last year. Alsup delayed his sentence during the pandemic to reduce Levandowski’s chances of becoming infected with COVID-19. A hearing on the timing of Levandowski’s prison sentence had been scheduled for Feb. 9.

In a tweet, Levandowski thanked Trump and everyone who supported his cause.

The Trump administration cited the support 13 people as a major influence for granting the pardon. The group pushing for the pardon included three of Levandowski’s attorneys in his criminal case, as well as Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder. Thiel ranks among the most influential investors in the tech industry and was a prominent supporter of Trump who spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Trump also called out five other people who either work closely with Thiel or have run startups that received investments from Thiel’s various funds.

The Lawyers Had Been Seeking to Claim $1.5 Million That Had Been Held in a Trust Account

That group consists of: Blake Masters, who co-wrote a book with Thiel and serves as chief operating officer of Thiel Capital; Trae Stephens, a partner at Thiel’s Founders Fund and who on Trump’s transition team after his 2016 election; Palmer Luckey, the co-founder of virtual reality startup, Oculus, that was backed by Thiel before it was sold to Facebook; Ryan Petersen, CEP of Flexport, another tech firm backed by Thiel; and James Proud, who also once ran a tech firm called Hello backed by Thiel.

Neither Thiel nor Stephens responded to a message left for them at the Founders Fund. Masters and Petersen didn’t immediate respond to a request for comment about their reasons for supporting Levandowski’s pardon. Efforts to reach Proud were unsuccessful.

The three Levandowski lawyers who lobbied for his pardon — Miles Ehrlich, James Ramsey and Amy Craig — have been trying to collect on a $5 million bill that they say Levandowski still owes their firm, according to court documents. Levandowski filed for bankruptcy last March after being ordered to pay Google $179 million as part of an arbitration dispute surrounding bonuses paid to him before he left the company.

The lawyers had been seeking to claim $1.5 million that had been held in a trust account, but a bankruptcy judge denied that request last year.

Now that Levandowski won’t be in prison, he may be able to get another job in the tech industry that would help him pay his lawyers. Ehrlich, Ramsey and Craig didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about their support for a Levandowski pardon or the money owed by their client.

Besides resulting in criminal charges, Levandowski’s skullduggery also was at the heart of a high-stakes lawsuit filed against Uber by Waymo, a spinoff born from Google’s work on robotic vehicles.

Uber denied ever using the technology that Levandowski took from Google. But the ride-hailing service wound up paying $245 million to settle the case a few days into a high-profile trial that saw its former CEO Travis Kalanick take the witness stand to discuss his friendship with Levandowski.

The two men grew so close that Uber paid $680 million in 2016 to acquire a self-driving truck company called Otto that Levandowski started after leaving Google. Kalanick then appointed Levandowski to oversee Uber’s self-driving car division before firing him in 2017.

Uber sold its self-driving car division late last year to Aurora, a Silicon Valley startup run by another former Google engineer, Chris Urmson, who once worked with Levandowski.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Biden Backs House’s Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel While Speaker Johnson Battles to Retain Position

DON'T MISS

Hot Rod Willys: Driven to Bake the Perfect Chicago-Style Pizza

DON'T MISS

Local Leaders Must Put Their Shoulders Into Making Fresno ‘Education City USA’

DON'T MISS

EdSource Welcomes Fresno News Veteran Jim Boren to Its Board

DON'T MISS

Senate Dismissed Two Articles of Impeachment, Ending Trial on Mayorkas

DON'T MISS

Netanyahu Dismisses Calls for Restraint, Says Israel Will Decide Iran Attack Response

DON'T MISS

New Study Calculates Climate Change’s Economic Bite Will Hit About $38 Trillion a Year by 2049

DON'T MISS

Biden Pledges to Block Japanese Takeover of US Steel and Promises Tariffs on Chinese Steel

DON'T MISS

Don Arax Talks About His New Football Job at Visalia’s Central Valley Christian

DON'T MISS

Dem House Challengers Salas, Gray Flex Fundraising Muscle

UP NEXT

Myanmar’s Ousted Leader Suu Kyi Moved From Prison to House Arrest Due to Heat, Military Says

UP NEXT

Vital Climate Tool or License to Pollute? The Battle Over CA’s First Carbon Capture Project

UP NEXT

NPR Editor Suspended Over Claims of Network’s ‘Progressive Worldview’

UP NEXT

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

UP NEXT

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

UP NEXT

New Recruiting Programs Put Army, Air Force on Track to Meet Enlistment Goals. Navy Will Fall Short

UP NEXT

Paris Hilton Backs California Bill to Bring More Transparency to Youth Treatment Facilities

UP NEXT

Ex-Marine Gets 9 Years in Prison for Firebombing California Planned Parenthood Clinic

UP NEXT

California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter ID Law Passed at Polls

UP NEXT

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

EdSource Welcomes Fresno News Veteran Jim Boren to Its Board

12 hours ago

Senate Dismissed Two Articles of Impeachment, Ending Trial on Mayorkas

13 hours ago

Netanyahu Dismisses Calls for Restraint, Says Israel Will Decide Iran Attack Response

13 hours ago

New Study Calculates Climate Change’s Economic Bite Will Hit About $38 Trillion a Year by 2049

13 hours ago

Biden Pledges to Block Japanese Takeover of US Steel and Promises Tariffs on Chinese Steel

14 hours ago

Don Arax Talks About His New Football Job at Visalia’s Central Valley Christian

14 hours ago

Dem House Challengers Salas, Gray Flex Fundraising Muscle

16 hours ago

Career-High Strike Outs for Ryan Weathers as Marlins Best Giants 6-3

16 hours ago

LeBron’s Lakers Top Pelicans in Play-in, Set up Playoff Rematch With Nuggets

16 hours ago

Storm Dumps Record Rain and Floods Dubai’s Airport

16 hours ago

Biden Backs House’s Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel While Speaker Johnson Battles to Retain Position

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he strongly supports a proposal from House Speaker Mike Johnson to provide aid to Ukrai...

10 hours ago

10 hours ago

Biden Backs House’s Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel While Speaker Johnson Battles to Retain Position

11 hours ago

Hot Rod Willys: Driven to Bake the Perfect Chicago-Style Pizza

12 hours ago

Local Leaders Must Put Their Shoulders Into Making Fresno ‘Education City USA’

12 hours ago

EdSource Welcomes Fresno News Veteran Jim Boren to Its Board

13 hours ago

Senate Dismissed Two Articles of Impeachment, Ending Trial on Mayorkas

13 hours ago

Netanyahu Dismisses Calls for Restraint, Says Israel Will Decide Iran Attack Response

13 hours ago

New Study Calculates Climate Change’s Economic Bite Will Hit About $38 Trillion a Year by 2049

14 hours ago

Biden Pledges to Block Japanese Takeover of US Steel and Promises Tariffs on Chinese Steel

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend