On Thursday, a Georgia teen and her boyfriend have been sentenced to four months in prison in the Cayman Islands for violating strict Covid-19 measures following a recent ruling that will be appealed.
Skylar Mack, 18, and her boyfriend Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, of the Cayman Islands, have been in prison since Tuesday when the ruling was issued. They had both pleaded guilty, but their attorney, Jonathon Hughes, said he will argue for a less severe sentence next week.
During a phone interview with The Associated Press, he said, “They’re two young people who have never been in trouble before.” He added, “This is the first time they’ve had interaction with police, the courts, prison.”
Mack had originally been sentenced to a fine and community service. Her family told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas that they believe government officials are trying to make an example out of her.
Her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, said, “Skylar is the last person that this would happen to.” She added, “The fact that this could happen to a kid like her is scary to me.”
On Nov. 27, Mack went to the Caribbean with her boyfriend, a Cayman island native and professional jet ski racer.
Mack was supposed to undergo a two-week quarantine as mandated by the government, which electronically tracks anyone who arrives in the British Caribbean territory.
The next day, she reportedly called the public health department to have the tracker loosened.
On Nov. 29, Ramgeet picked her up to go to the race.
Local journalist Andrel Harris told U.S. media outlets, “They weren’t wearing any masks.” He said, “She wasn’t wearing a bracelet, and they weren’t observing social distancing or several major protocols that were part of our COVID-19 suppression measures.”
After the couple’s arrest, a judge ruled that they had to provide 40 hours of community service and pay a $4,400 fine. In addition, Ramgeet was ordered to a two-month curfew that would start at 7 p.m.
But the prosecution appealed, arguing that the sentence was unduly lenient and that any potential violators would not be deterred. A higher court ruled in favor of prosecutors, ruling on Dec. 15 that the pair will be automatically detained.
During Tuesday’s sentencing, the Cayman Compass newspaper confirmed that Judge Roger Chapple’s decision to violate safety measures was born of “selfishness and arrogance.” adding that Mack spent seven hours out in public without wearing a face mask or social distancing.
“This was entirely deliberate and planned, as evidenced by her desire to switch her wristband the day before to a looser one that she was then able to remove,” he was quoted as saying, referring to the electronic tracking device.
Hughes said the sentence is the first of its kind, adding that Mack’s family is concerned: “They’re worried for her because she’s in prison in a foreign country on her own. While this is something she brought on herself, it’s very distressing for her.”
Jeanne Mack said the sentence is unfair. “Four months for breaching isolation while testing negative is a bit much .” She said, “Why did she have to be the example?”
The couple is the first to be sentenced under the amended law that targets Covid-19 violators. The initial statute called for a fine of $2,400 and up to six months in jail, while the newly revised law mandates a fine of $12,000 and up to two years in jail.
A Canadian couple found guilty of violating coronavirus measures were ordered under the original law to pay a $1,200 fine each.
Over 300 coronavirus cases and two deaths have been recorded in the Cayman Islands, a territory of nearly 62,000 people.
Hughes has said that next week he plans to appeal the sentence.
Breaking news: Skylar Mack and Vanjae Ramjeet has been sentenced to 4 months of immediate imprisonment for their breach of quarantine.
More details to follow… pic.twitter.com/6ur5RYxuZH
— Cayman Compass (@cayCompass) December 15, 2020