Trump Pardons Ex-Google Engineer Convicted of Stealing Trade Secrets

Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski on September 24, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski on September 24, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

President Donald Trump issued a full pardon for former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski early Wednesday, one of 143 people who received pardons and commutations during Trump’s last 12 hours in office.

Levandowski, who helped found Google’s Waymo, was convicted in August of stealing trade secrets from Google and starting his own self-driving car company called Otto with the information. Levandowski sold his company to Uber but things became incredibly messy when the theft of trade secrets came to light.

Levandowski took over 14,000 files on Waymo’s self-driving car technology before he left and was ultimately sentenced to 18 months. However, he wasn’t scheduled to report to prison until the covid-19 pandemic was over.

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The pardon for Levandowski came with the endorsement of Silicon Valley bigwigs Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey, both strong supporters of President Trump.

From the White House announcement:

President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski. This pardon is strongly supported by James Ramsey, Peter Thiel, Miles Ehrlich, Amy Craig, Michael Ovitz, Palmer Luckey, Ryan Petersen, Ken Goldberg, Mike Jensen, Nate Schimmel, Trae Stephens, Blake Masters, and James Proud, among others. Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology. 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.

President Trump gave pardons and commutations to a slew of other people overnight, many with direct ties to the Trump regime. Former Trump campaign manager and white nationalist Steve Bannon was issued a pardon for his role in allegedly stealing money from a crowdfunding campaign to build a private wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon is out on $5 million bond and hadn’t even gone to trial yet.

Amazingly, Trump didn’t issue any pardons for himself or his family. However, the president still has until noon Eastern time to toss out any more pardons as he sees fit.

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Will Trump hand out pardons in the waning hours of his presidency while everyone else is focused on Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington D.C.? We’ll known shortly, but hopefully this is the last reality TV-style suspense we’ll have from the president for some time to come. Biden may be imperfect, but at least he’s not going to leave us hanging with promises of “just wait two weeks” on everything from health care to infrastructure.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

It’s not how it was meant to be used, but that’s what you get when you vote for a demagogue. The political system can only work, if people in power actually work for the well-being of the country.

The worst part on these stories is not him pardoning these people, we kind of expected it, but that most people don’t care? I remember a time, if something like this would have happened, it would be in the news for a whole month and people would be outraged. Now it’s just a normal Tuesday.

The desensitized population is probably one of the bigger problems Trump left us with. Doing bad things is not considered bad any more.