(Reuters) – A US 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 he became head of Uber Technologies Inc.'s rival unit.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said Mr. Levandowski, who was convicted on Tuesday following a plea deal in March, said Levandowski could go into custody once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Judge Alsup said a sentence without imprisonment would have given "a green light to any future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets", comparing what Mr Levandowski took to a "competitor's game plan."
The 75-year-old judge, who has been involved in Silicon Valley disputes for nearly five decades, described Levandowsky's conviction as "the biggest trade secret crime I've ever seen."
"Billions [of dollars] in the future played, and when such economic incentives exist there are good people will do terrible things, and that's what happened here," Judge Alsup said.
Prosecutors sought 27 months in prison
Mr. Levandowski requested one year in prison at his Marin County home, claiming that seizures with pneumonia in recent years would make him susceptible to death from the new coronavirus while he was in prison, and his lawyers asked the judge to consider investigators found no evidence that "Levandowski used any of Google's trade secrets after leaving Google's employment."
Mr. Levandowski transferred more than 1
Uber fired Mr. Levandowski 2017 and then decided a lawsuit from Google's parent Alphabet Inc. on misuse of trade secrets, which puts back the company's self-propelled project.
The dispute between the companies is ongoing. Mr. Levandowski filed for bankruptcy in March because he owes $ 179 million to Google for his actions before resigning in January 2016.
Google last week asked the bankruptcy judge to reject Uber's argument that it is not responsible for paying the $ 179 million under his old employment contract.
Mr. Levandowski, who now runs the self-driving trucking company Pronto, apologizes to Google and said he plans to share his story history with others in the technology industry.
"Today marks the end of three and a half long years and the beginning of another long road ahead," he said in a statement.