30 Jul 2020: Former Waymo engineer may get 27 months' prison time
The punishment has been suggested by federal prosecutors ahead of the techie's sentencing in the case of stealing Waymo's IP and trade secrets and then defecting to ride-hailing giant Uber.
Here is more on the matter.
Case: 33 federal charges of IP and trade secrets theft
In August 2019, Levandowski was indicted by DoJ on 33 counts of stealing documents containing self-driving trade secrets and intellectual property from Waymo and then taking them over to its rival Uber.
A few months later, in a bid to wind down the lengthy, costly case, the engineer reached an agreement with prosecutors and pled guilty to one charge as the others were dropped.
Details: What did he plead guilty to?
The charge Levandowski pled guilty to was of trade secrets theft.
In the plea, he admitted to downloading an internal project tracking spreadsheet called, "Chauffeur TL Weekly".
The document consisted of team goals, project metrics, and weekly status updates, among other things, and Levandowski said he accessed it nearly a month after leaving Waymo in February 2016.
Fact: Uber acquired start-up Levandowski founded after leaving Waymo
When Levandowski left Waymo, after allegedly stealing 14,000 files containing trade secrets, technical specifications, and LiDAR design, he started his own self-driving truck start-up Otto. This business was purchased by Uber for its own now-shuttered self-driving project, stirring up the issue of IP theft.
Punishment: Important lesson for Silicon Valley, prosecutors said
In light of the plea, the federal lawyers have suggested the court that a 27-month prison term should be fair for Levandowski.
"Given the egregiousness of the conduct in this case and the need to deter similar conduct in the future, the government respectfully recommends a mid-range guidelines sentence," the prosecutors said, adding that it is an important lesson for Silicon Valley.
Verdict: Sentencing expected on August 4
The final sentencing on the case is expected on August 4.
Levandowski, on his part, has requested home confinement of 12 months, claiming that going to prison in the middle of a pandemic would be a death sentence for him.
Notably, Waymo and Uber have already settled the matter out of court, with the latter paying $245 million to the Alphabet-owned company.