Trump pardons ex-Google self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski, commutes sentence of dealer Billy Walters

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Departing President Donald Trump pardoned Anthony Levandowski, saving the engineer from more than a year in prison for stealing trade secrets from his former employer, Alphabet’s Waymo.

The pardon was supported by venture capitalist and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, virtual-reality developer Palmer Luckey and former Walt Disney executive Michael Ovitz, among others, according to a statement from the White House on Tuesday.

In August, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco ordered Levandowski to spend 18 months in prison, concluding one of the highest-profile criminal cases to hit Silicon Valley and describing it as “the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

Levandowski had pleaded guilty to trade secret theft.

Levandowski was an autonomous vehicle pioneer, helping the Google car project, now known as Waymo, during its early years.

Uber Technologies hired him to run its self-driving initiative and Levandowski allegedly downloaded thousands of files before he left Google.

The White House noted that Levandowski’s 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,” the White House added in its statement.

Trump also commuted the sentence of car dealer and professional gambler Billy Walters, who was sentenced to five years in prison for insider trading. Walters has served nearly four years of his sentence and paid $44 million in fines, forfeitures and restitution, according to the White House.

Walters’ commutation was supported by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, and several professional golfers.

Automotive News contributed to this report.

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