Anthony Levandowski, an ex-Google self-driving car engineer and serial entrepreneur at the centre of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has been sentenced to 18 months on one count of stealing trade secrets.
US District Judge William Alsup in San Franciscoin sentencing Levandowskisaid he carried out the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen” and that home confinement would “[give] a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets. Prison time is the answer to that.” Levandowski was also fined $756,499.22 in restitution to Waymo and another $95,000 fine.
Levandowski is accused of loading more than 14,000 Google files onto his laptop before leaving the firm in January 2016. He then led Uber’s robocar project before being sacked in 2017 over this case.
Levandowski filed for bankruptcy in March this year because he owes $179m to Google’s parent company, Alphabet, for his actions.
Judge Alsup said “billions [of dollars] in the future were at play, and when those kind of financial incentives are there good people will do terrible things, and that’s what happened here”.
Levandowski – who was a founding member of Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo – had been hoping for a sentence of 12 months’ confinement at his home in the San Francisco suburbs having pleaded that he had pneumonia, and could die of coronavirus in prison.
Judge Alsup ruled that Levandowski could begin his custodial sentence after the Covid-19 pandemic had peaked.
Levandowski, who now runs self-driving truck company Pronto, said in a statement: “Today marks the end of three-and-a-half long years and the beginning of another long road ahead.”
Uber settled a lawsuit from Alphabet over the trade secrets theft, but the dispute between the companies continues.
Following his dismissal from Uber in 2017, Levandowski sued Uber for $4.1bn, stemming from its acquisition of his previous self-driving truck start-up, Otto.