UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill could face between three and 10 years in prison if standard Chinese practices are applied and they are convicted under suspicion of shoplifting, according to a report from Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.
Wetzel, citing a conversation with William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher of the Chinese court system for Amnesty International, reported that the three UCLA freshmen could face stiff penalties after the trio was arrested for allegedly shoplifting in a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s Hangzhou hotel.
(UPDATE: The three players have been released on bail but will remain in Hangzhou as the legal process plays out.)
The Bruins are in China for the week as they prepare to face Georgia Tech on the first day of the regular season on Friday.
Nee told Wetzel that Chinese prosecutors will usually make a defendant wait 30-37 days before an official indictment. Research from Nee also indicates that Chinese prosecutors enjoy a 99.2 percent conviction rate among those who are indicted.
There is a chance that the United States consulate could step in to help broker a quicker resolution, but they don’t dictate the terms of the Chinese legal system. During Nee’s research into Chinese law, he found that defendants could be held in detention for weeks at a time before prosecutors might even decide how to proceed with the case. In other words, American-style bail is usually very rare in the case of Chinese law procedure.
It will be fascinating to see how this plays out since the UCLA men’s basketball team is such a high-profile visitor to China, particularly Ball, who is the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball. The x-factor is all of this is LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of LiAngelo, Lonzo and LaMelo that has spent the last year trying to build his Big Baller Brand.
Potentially causing an international diplomatic incident is probably not where LaVar saw his reality show, Ball In The Family, going.
LaVar was expected to address media in a press conference in his hotel suite. But according to ESPN’s Arash Markazi, LaVar has opted not to do so because his counsel advised him not to, “due to the legal nature of the matter.”