Anthony Levandowski was once one of Silicon Valley’s most sought after technologists.
As a pioneer of self-driving car technology, he became a confidant of Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, and helped develop the search giant’s autonomous vehicles. Uber wooed him to gain an edge in self-driving techniques. Venture capitalists threw their money at him.
But on Tuesday, Mr. Levandowski, 39, fell far from that favored stature. Federal prosecutors charged him with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google. At an arraignment in a federal courthouse in San Jose, Calif., a disheveled Mr. Levandowski, dressed in a blue blazer and dark brown pants and accompanied by his parents, posted $2 million bail and was ordered to wear an ankle monitor after prosecutors argued that he was a flight risk.
The criminal indictment against Mr. Levandowski from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California opens a new chapter in a legal battle that has embroiled Google, its self-driving car spinoff Waymo and its rival Uber in the high-stakes contest over autonomous vehicles. The case also highlights Silicon Valley’s no-holds-barred culture, where gaining an edge in new technologies versus competitors can be paramount.