President Donald Trump pardoned a former Google engineer who was sentenced to prison last year for stealing trade secrets from the tech giant related to robotic vehicles.
Anthony Levandowski left Google in early 2016 where he worked in the autonomous vehicle division to start his own company called Otto. That company was acquired by Uber for $680 million as the ride-hailing venture pursued its own autonomous vehicle division.
Before leaving, Levandowski downloaded a trove of Google’s self-driving car technology, leading eventually to 33 counts of intellectual property theft against him. He plead guilty to one count and was sentenced to 18 months in prison last summer.
Levandowski was among the more than 140 people included in a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of Trump’s White House term, which included former chief strategist Steve Bannon, ex-members of Congress and other allies of Trump and his family.
In a White House statement, the administration said the pardon was supported by one-time Trump supporter and tech billionaire Peter Thiel, former Disney executive Michael Ovitz, and Palmer Luckey, founder of the virtual reality company Oculus VR.
Levandowski thanked the president in an early morning tweet Wednesday, saying he was grateful for the opportunity to move forward.
Uber sold its autonomous vehicles development arm four months after Levandowski was sentenced.
The last-minute clemency, announced Wednesday morning, follows separate waves of pardons over the past month for Trump associates convicted in the FBI’s Russia investigation as well as for the father of his son-in-law. Taken together, the actions underscore the president’s willingness, all the way through his four years in the White House, to flex his constitutional powers in ways that defy convention and explicitly aid his friends and supporters.
To be sure, the latest list of 70 pardons and 73 clemencies was heavily populated by more conventional candidates whose cases had been championed by criminal justice activists. One man who has spent nearly 24 years in prison on drug and weapons charges but had shown exemplary behavior behind bars had his sentence commuted, as did a former Marine sentenced in 2000 in connection with a cocaine conviction.