If standard practices are applied, the three UCLA basketball players – including LiAngelo Ball – arrested Tuesday in mainland China under suspicion of shoplifting face between three and 10 years in prison if convicted, according to Chinese lawyers who briefed Yahoo Sports on the applicable laws. The sentencing guidelines could shift depending on the amount that the Chinese could prove was allegedly stolen.
Authorities believe the players shoplifted from a Louis Vuitton store near the UCLA team hotel outside of Shanghai. The Bruins are in China to play Georgia Tech on Saturday in the season opener. The players were arrested Tuesday after local law enforcement came to the team hotel and questioned both UCLA and Georgia Tech players before taking the three away. ESPN first reported the arrests.
What they face now bears little resemblance to the legal system of the United States. The three men could be detained for more than a month without American-style bail before local prosecutors even decide whether to press charges, according to William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher of the Chinese court system for Amnesty International.
Nee said it is not uncommon for a defendant to wait 30-37 days before being officially indicted. Among those indicted, Chinese prosecutors enjoy a 99.2 percent conviction rate, according to Nee’s research.
While it is unknown exactly what the players are being detained for, Chinese law calls for a fine and between three to 10 years in prison for anyone convicted of “robbing public or private property using force, coercion, or other methods.” The case could also be dropped to the lower “administration violation” rather than robbery, which would lessen any potential penalty including prison time, according to Jeremy Daum, an attorney and research fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center based in Beijing.
LaVar Ball is currently in China, where he has reportedly traveled to Shanghai with the rest of the team and his family. He was scheduled to speak with the media on Wednesday, but was advised by his legal counsel not to. He released this statement: “It is a very unfortunate situation that the Ball family and UCLA has to deal with at this particular time. We will comment shortly.”
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