President Trump reportedly appealed directly to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to help resolve the case of the three UCLA basketball players. Among the arrested UCLA players is star player LiAngelo Ball, arrested and charged with shoplifting during the team’s visit to Hangzhou, China.
Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested on November 7 for allegedly stealing merchandise from a Louis Vuitton store near the Hangzhou hotel the team was staying in. The team was in Shanghai to face Georgia Tech in their season opener on November 4. News also broke that Chinese authorities reported having surveillance video of the trio stealing from several other stores that same day.
The three were allowed to make bail but were not allowed to leave Chinese territory when the rest of their team flew back to the United States.
With the players stranded in China and at the mercies of the Chinese legal system, President Trump reached out to China’s leader to ask him to look into the case, according to the Washington Post.
Arriving the day after the players were arrested, Trump reportedly raised the players’ predicament during his visit to Beijing. After Trump’s entreaties, Jinping reportedly said he would look into it and make sure the players were treated fairly and expeditiously.
Trump Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has already been in touch with the families of the three players as well as university officials including UCLA coach Steve Alford.
Chinese authorities told the Post that the charges have been downgraded and the case against them is on a fast track toward resolution.
If the charges have been downgraded, that would be good news, indeed, for the three accused players. If convicted on the original charges, the three could get a prison sentence of up to ten years each according to earlier reports.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.