Bootnotes

Butt plugs, mock cocks, late pay and paranoia: The world of Waymo star Anthony Levandowski… by his kids' nanny

This is a work of fiction, says engineer's lawyer

By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco

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The engineer at the center of a massive self-driving car lawsuit – brought by Google-stablemate Waymo against Uber – neglects his kids, is wildly disorganized, and has a large selection of bondage gear, his former nanny has sensationally alleged.

Anthony Levandowski may also be paying a Tesla techie for trade secrets, may have secretly helped set up several self-driving car startups, and at one point planned to flee across the border to Canada in an effort to avoid the legal repercussions of his actions at both Waymo and Uber, it is further claimed.

Those extraordinary allegations come in a highly unusual lawsuit [PDF] filed earlier this month by his ex-nanny Erika Wong, who worked for Waymo's former star engineer for six months, from December 2016 to June 2017.

Wong's lawsuit identifies no less than 41 causes of action – ranging from alleged health and safety code violations to emotional distress – and asks for a mind-bogglingly $6m in recompense. Levandowski's lawyer said the lawsuit is a "work of fiction."

It's hard to know what to make of the sueball, with most of it reading like a stream of consciousness or a series of hastily scribbled notes typed out one after the other, but the demand is clear: six million bucks for what amounted to a disorganized effort to provide babysitting for Levandowski's two kids while he was trying to navigate the legal storm that engulfed him after Waymo filed suit against Uber claiming the theft of trade secrets.

According to Waymo, Levandowski smuggled loads of Waymo's top-secret autonomous vehicle blueprints into Uber after quitting the Alphabet-owned biz. Those claims are still being argued over in a San Francisco, California, court.

Meanwhile, Wong has thrown just about every possible detail from her time working for Levandowski into her 81-page court filing, including: names she overheard in conversation; the terrifically dull details of text messages between herself and Levandowski over babysitting; a bizarre series of interactions over her signing a non-disclosure agreement; a listing of cars – complete with number plates – that appeared at his home; and at one point a full inventory of 24 sex toys and associated paraphernalia that she allegedly discovered in his bedroom.

Drilling deeper

It's not clear what the intent is beyond embarrassing Levandowski to the greatest possible extent. Broadly, though, the allegations can be broken into three main categories:

The lawsuit moves from dull to scandalous to puzzling to intriguing and back to dull again. Some examples of the claims:

For months, Wong often stood at the kitchen counter, while Levandowski and the children ate in the kitchen. When dining in with Levandowski, Wong stood in the kitchen on average of about three to four hours. Wong was often standing in the kitchen prior to dinner (preparing dinner), standing during dinner, and after dinner (The dishwasher was full during the day, another evening dishwasher load, then hand drying dishes at night).

Quite why Wong felt the need to stand for hours in the kitchen isn't clear, but later on, at what is painted as a clandestine meeting between the two at the Whitcomb Hotel in San Francisco, Levandowski angrily disputed that Wong had to stand for hours. Another example:

During Wong’s employment M.O.L. [the pseudonym used by the lawsuit for one of the children] would whisper to Wong at various times, 'I know where the cash is', 'The cash is in the bedroom', 'Daddy has a lot of money in the bedroom.' Wong assumed M.O.L. was referring to a piggy bank. Wong noted on a regular basis, Levandowski has a very bad and short-term memory. In the kitchen, and other areas of the house, the cupboards were labeled with 'blue tape' identifying the contents in his home.

The bedroom becomes quite a place of intrigue in the lawsuit, with the children allegedly uncovering sex toys, pictures, and money on no less than four separate occasions – with Wong rushing in to help clean up, apparently. But not before she carefully catalogued what she found. At one point, an extra lock is placed on the bedroom door.

"The children pulled open one of Levandowski’s dresser drawers in his bedroom, various sized flesh colored dildos were openly exposed. Wong immediately closed the dresser drawer," the court filing describes one occasion.

Another: "That late afternoon, when Levandowski was away, Wong was in the kitchen for a period of time, the children were in Levandowski’s bedroom. Half an hour later, she walked back to Levandowski’s bedroom, Wong found his dresser drawer open and items on the floor, taken out by the children."

Here we go...

Wong then lists in some details no less than 21 items she allegedly found:

  1. flesh colored dildo 10”
  2. 30” elkhide flogger
  3. nipple clamps, black with torture adjustable settings
  4. silicone ball gag (black) with silicon strap…

And so on: a dominatrix lace harness here, a blue butt plug there (in fact, three butt plugs), multiple vibrators, straps, ropes, massage oil. Quite why Wong decided she needed to make a full list of it all is never made clear.

Another time, claiming that one of the children led her to Levandowski's closet while waving $100 bill, "Wong opened the closet and a large black suitcase fell over and bumped M.O.L. on the head. The suitcase opened and contained human torture devices. There were photos of female teenagers in compromising positions bound up in rope and red tape. Some of the teenagers were bruised in the face and torso area. The photos were dated back to 2012 with a 'sharpie' pen. Wong closed the suitcase and put M.O.L. back to bed."

All the innuendo aside, the details are likely to be pored over by Google's lawyers, with Wong giving dates and times and names and license plates – again, without really explaining why she kept a record of it all.

On the day Waymo filed its lawsuit against Uber in which is alleged Levandowski stole 11,000 documents from the company, and created an autonomous vehicle startup called Ottomotto that Uber bought a few months later to obtain the allegedly purloined trade secrets, Wong reported his reaction:

Not happy

Levandowski screamed 'Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!' all evening. He stated, 'How could they do this to me?' 'Miles, what about the clause, you and Abby said this would work!! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!' What do I do with the discs? What do the contracts say?? Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!' What about Ognen, John, Izzy, and Rich Bender? All of you said all said this would work!!! Shit! Shit! Shit!' It's all mine, the money, the deals, it's all mine. What about 'the shit?' These are all my fucking deals!!! All of you fucking attorneys and Randy said this would work!'

Wong goes to some lengths to list all the names she overheard in the course of her babysitting, and also lists car license plates. As things got weirder and more paranoid at Levandowski's house, the locked were changed, the top engineer insisted no new items were brought into the house, and he and Wong had a weird exchange about why a gift she bought the kids was thrown out in the trash:

Wong noticed the gift of a children’s magnetic sandbox had been thrown away in Levandowski’s trash bin. On Monday, May 15, 2017 Wong texted Levandowski asking why he threw out Wong’s gift to the children. He responded, "Thank you for the gift, I appreciate it, but the sand was no longer 'magnetic' and it was getting everywhere. I also must add that I’m not comfortable with you going through my stuff or trash. Please don’t come by the house (and/or go through my stuff) unless we agree beforehand." Wong responded, "I was not going through your trash, I was looking for my pad which I asked you to leave outside yesterday. Gee whiz, I did not see it so I checked the trash, to look for my pad, gee whiz."

Wong pushed back against Levandowski's apparent paranoia at the same time she was making extensive notes about everything she saw and heard at his house – even when she wasn't working there.

"The license plates were a white Toyota 5TPC797, a silver Lexus 6KWS778, an older model gold Toyota Rav4 7YKV457. Wong drove by at midnight after school on consecutive nights and noticed the same vehicles parked outside the house," the lawsuit stated.

Getting even weirder, Wong told Levandowski she made a short film about Sebastian Thrun – the co-founder of Google's self-driving car project – and suggested she could help Levandowski's "image."

"Levandowski shouted, 'No! No! No! Don’t make any films about me.' He also demanded that Wong not have social media of any sort," the lawsuit stated. It is a little strange to have a nanny with an interest in your specialist field of autonomous vehicles, even in the Bay Area.

More strangeness resulted from Levandowski's belated efforts to get Wong to sign a non-disclosure agreement – something that she repeatedly refused to do but eventually relented, she claimed because he would "not allow her to leave the premises unless she signed it. He also threatened to withhold her wages if she failed to sign it." She signed "under 'duress' of violence and retaliation."

But she clearly feels the NDA is not legally binding because everything she learned in six months of childcare has now been published in a publicly available document.

Enter Travis

And just in case you forget that this is more than a legal dispute over hours and wages for a nanny, up pops Uber's then-CEO Travis Kalanick – on March 11, 2017 at 6.30pm, no less.

"Wong observed Levandowski, upon entry had brought home the following items: A copper wiring device made up of roughly 60 intertwined individual copper wirings, wrapped in thick yellow rubber that had a serial number on it," the lawsuit stated.

"There was also a large flat lid that had holes on all the edges, a large steel screw, and hexagonal steel washer (heavy, palm size). Wong alleges the washer and screw are similar to those used on circuit boards, to keep from coming loose from 'vibrations.' Wong alleges the flat lid is similar to those used to 'case' the lidar components on top of self-driving vehicles. There was also a circuit board embedded in the flat lid.

"Wong observed these items were fairly large and perhaps used for demonstration purposes to Kalanick (Exhibit 12). Wong noticed upon entry, Kalanick had a composition notebook in his hands. Kalanick placed his notebook by his dinner plate on the dining table. Close to Kalanick and Levandowski, a white bucket that contained circuit boards, items related to circuit boards and various reflective lenses. Wong observed, the items in the bucket seemed fairly large and perhaps used for demonstration purposes to Kalanick."

Later, she recorded a conversation between Levandowski and his business partner Randy Miller in which he says: "Travis fell for the props, he doesn’t know shit."

She also drew links between Levandowski and a number of startups in his field, name-checking Tesla engineer Patrick Green, and referring to conversations about Qing Lu – who started the JingChi breakaway company from Velodyne – and Brian Salesky's Argo.AI company. Velodyne is a maker of LIDAR technology used by self-driving cars.

Run away!

Wong clearly suspected something untoward in these conversations but wasn't sure of the bigger picture – so she just put it all out there. Essentially, it is appears, from the claims, that Levandowski was preoccupied by the bizarre cloak-and-dagger world of robo-rides exposed by the Waymo-Uber lawsuit.

As to just how crazy things got at Levandowski's house, at one point Wong recalled a discussion about how Levandowski was planning to flee America and its legal system, and drive to Alberta in Canada, with conversational details about how Levandowski had "arranged for the children to still be able to visit him through Olsen and relatives, under the supervision of his lawyers."

Needless to say, Levandowski is not excited to see his personal and private conversations plastered all over a lawsuit. "The allegations in the lawsuit are a work of fiction," one of his lawyers said in response to the filing. "Levandowski is confident that the lawsuit will be dismissed by the court."

An administrative hearing for Wong's sueball is set to be held on April 5. ®

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