In one of his final acts in office, President Donald Trump pardoned a former Google engineer convicted of stealing trade secrets for Uber.
Anthony Levandowski worked for Google’s self-driving car division before leaving to start his own company, Otto, which was snapped up by Uber.
After Google sued Levandowski for illegally downloading thousands of files to his laptop before his departure, Uber fired him.
What followed was an epic legal showdown that culminated with Levandowski pleading guilty to stealing just one proprietary Google document. Prosecutors, in exchange, agreed to drop the rest of the charges filed against him.
Last year, at the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Hon. William Alsup sentenced the engineer to a year-and-a-half in prison for what the judge described as the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”
Levandowski is still battling Uber in court, claiming he’s entitled to the $179 million Alsup ordered he pony up to Google. In a separate lawsuit, he argues that the ride-hailing company also owes him billions of dollars more in lost value from the Otto acquisition.
The ex-Googler never began serving his sentence, which the court tabled indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to an announcement from the White House Tuesday, the decision to pardon Levandowski came in part from advocacy on his behalf by several high-profile Silicon Valley figures, including billionaire investor Peter Thiel and fellow Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens, among others.
In addition to Levandowski, Trump this week has pardoned more than 70 people and commuted sentences for as many more, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.