Anthony Levandowski gets 18 months in prison for stealing Google self-driving car files

Former Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski leaves the federal court after his arraignment hearing in San Jose

Reuters/Stephen Lam

A U.S. judge on Tuesday sentenced former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison for stealing a trade secret from Google related to self-driving cars months before becoming the head of Uber’s rival unit.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said Levandowski, who was convicted on Tuesday following a March plea deal agreement, said Levandowski could enter custody once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided.

Alsup said a sentence short of imprisonment would have given “a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets,” comparing what Levandowski took to a “competitor’s game plan.”

Levandowski’s conviction is one of the highest-profile for Silicon Valley intellectual property theft.

Levandowski agreed to a plea deal two weeks after filing for bankruptcy. He owes $179 million to Alphabet Inc’s Google to settle a dispute arising from his actions before leaving the company in January 2016.