- The UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested for an alleged shoplifting incident while in China.
- The players were released on bail, but must remain in their hotel until the legal process concludes, according to one source.
- While the players may benefit from their status as first-time offenders, legal experts do not expect the Chinese government to allow them to leave unpunished.
LiAngelo Ball and two UCLA teammates were arrested on a charge of shoplifting in Hangzhou, China. The trio were reportedly released on bail Wednesday morning, but their journey through the Chinese legal system is far from over.
Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill, all freshmen, were arrested in Shanghai on Tuesday. The three student-athletes, who were in China for an exhibition game against Georgia Tech, were accused of stealing from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel in Hangzhou and detained at a police station for a number of hours.
But while the players were released and allowed to rejoin their team, they were instructed by Hangzhou police to remain at their hotel until the legal process is finished, according to a source who spoke to Arash Markazi of ESPN. William Nee, a Hong Kong-based legal researcher who spoke to Yahoo, said it isn’t uncommon for a defendant to wait up to 37 days before being indicted.
Ball, Riley, and Hill were reportedly treated well by the police.
“The players were treated with the utmost respect, kindness and professionalism at all times by the Hangzhou police,” said the ESPN source. “The players questioned were respectful at all times. None of this was confrontational.”
With the players confined to the hotel, they will not participate in this Friday’s exhibition against the Yellow Jackets. It is unclear what the arrests mean for UCLA’s season, which is set to kick off with a game against Central Arkansas on November 15.
“We are aware of a situation involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China,” UCLA said in a statement. “The University is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter, and we have no further comment at this time.”
The fact that the student-athletes are first-time offenders may help them escape with a slap on the wrist, and Nee remarked that it is “very rare [or] unheard of for people to get American-style bail” in China, so the fact that they were released to their hotel could be interpreted as a good sign. However, if the players expect to be treated differently because of their status as foreigners, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
“The police will be very careful to handle this case at such a sensitive time,” said Wen Yu, a Guangzhou-based attorney, according to Yahoo. “Without instructions from above, they will not let the students out easily because the authorities want to prove foreigners are treated equally here.”
Through the entire process, LaVar Ball, who is with the team in Shanghai, has remained relatively quiet. The outspoken father of LiAngelo Ball and Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball said he was advised by legal counsel to not comment on the matter, though he did offer some brief remarks as he was leaving the hotel on Wednesday.
“He’ll be fine,” he said of LiAngelo. “Everybody making it a big deal. It ain’t that big of a deal.”
The exhibition between UCLA and Georgia Tech will be played as scheduled. It will be broadcast live on ESPN on Friday at 11:30 ET.
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