A lot of Americans have been holding their breath after hearing about LiAngelo Ball and two of his UCLA teammates being detained in China for allegedly stealing sunglasses. Recent news is allowing those concerned about the case to exhale because it has been reported that it is unlikely that the basketball players will face severe punishment. Three professors who are experts in Chinese law are almost certain the men will be able to return home after the investigation is over. A report by USA Today provides much of the information in this article.

Details of the story

ESPN reported that on Tuesday, November 7, the three UCLA basketball players, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley, were caught on a surveillance tape stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the hotel where they were staying in Hangzhou. They were detained by the police and later released on bail, but they were not allowed to leave their hotel to play in or attend the game against Georgia Tech. They were also ordered to stay at their hotel while the case is being investigated. The rest of the team returned to the United States.

Chinese law professors

Jerome Cohen, the faculty director of New York University’s U.S. and Asia Law Institute pointed out some good news related to the case.

The professor said it was a very good sign that the players were allowed to return to their hotel after they were released. He added that they were allowed to post bail which doesn't usually happen in cases they plan to prosecute. He concluded that the men might be getting special treatment.

Cohen shot down the rumor that the players could be imprisoned for three to 10 years for the alleged theft.

Instead, he is counting on them being fined because that would look better for the Chinese legal system, in addition to keeping their relationship with the United States.

Another expert, Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University, agrees with Cohen. He thinks the players will be allowed to go home with a firm warning without being sentenced to prison.

Clarke noted that their being confined to their hotel will probably count as some time served. The good thing that Clark pointed out is that the Chinese legal system is different from America's in that it is at the discretion of the police concerning the punishment. Clarke believes the case will be settled with restitution and fines.

The third expert is Ira Belkin, an adjunct professor at New York University who specializes in Chinese law. He is also confident the basketball players will get off easy because of the value of the merchandise that was reportedly stolen. The professor refers to the action of the players as a minor offense which will not warrant a severe punishment. Like the other experts, Belkin believes politics will have a lot to do with whether the teammates will have to serve time in a Chinese prison.

It happened at the time when President Donald Trump was visiting the country.

Even with what the experts have said, many people can't forget that North Korea sentenced Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a political propaganda poster from his hotel in Pyongyang. The 21-year-old University of Virginia student was convicted after a one-hour trial. Unfortunately, Warmbier died a few days after he was returned to the United States in a coma.