A former Google engineer,Anthony Levandowski has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing trade secrets before joining Uber’s effort to build robotic vehicles for its ride-hailing service. The former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who was at the center of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, was convicted on a one count charge of stealing trade secrets.
During court proceedings, Levandowski also agreed to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Waymo and a fine of $95,000.
“Today marks the end of three and a half long years and the beginning of another long road ahead. I’m thankful to my family and friends for their continued love and support during this difficult time,” Levandowski said in a statement provided by his attorneys after the sentencing.
The U.S. District Attorney’s office had recommended a 27-month sentence, arguing in court today that Levandowski had committed the crime for ego or greed, and that he remained a wealthy man. Levandowski had sought a fine, 12 months home confinement and 200 hours of community service.
“It was wrong for him to take all of these files, and it erases the contributions of many, many other people that have also put their blood, sweat and tears into this project that makes a safer self-driving car,” prosecutor Katherine Wawrzyniak said in her closing statement. “When someone as brilliant as Mr Levandowski and as focused on his mission to create self driving cars to make the world safer and better, and that somehow excuses his actions, that’s wrong.”
Waymo agreed with Wawrzyniak’s statement.
“Anthony Levandowski’s theft of autonomous technology trade secrets has been enormously disruptive and harmful to Waymo, constituted a betrayal, and the effects would likely have been even more severe had it gone undetected,” a Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement, adding that the company echoed Wawrzyniak’s sentiment that this theft ‘erases the contributions of many.’ The spokesperson said Alsup’ decision “represents a win for trade secret laws that promote cutting-edge technology development.”
Levandowski spoke briefly on his behalf: “The last three and a half years have forced me to come to terms with what I did. I want to take this time to apologize to my colleagues at Google for betraying their trust, and to my entire family for the price they have paid and will continue to pay for my actions.”
The sentencing is the latest in a series of legal blows that have seen Levandowski vilified as a thieving tech bro, unceremoniously ejected from Uber, and forced into bankruptcy by a $179 million award against him