A Georgia teen has been sentenced to four months in prison for breaking COVID-19 protocols to see her boyfriend.
Skylar Mack, 18, had flown to Grand Cayman on November 27 to visit Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, who was taking part in a jet ski competition.
According to a Cayman Islands government press release, the 18-year-old had tested negative on for coronavirus arrival but had not yet completed her mandatory 14-day isolation period. There’s been a total of 316 confirmed cases in the country, with two deaths.
Check out a news report about Skylar’s sentence below:
The pair’s attorney, Jonathon Hughes, explained to BuzzFeed News how Skylar had been given a geofencing wristband and mobile phone to track her movements during the initial isolation period, in addition to signing a document forbidding her from leaving her residence.
However, just two days later, Skylar removed the wristband in order to watch Vanjae compete at the competition, alongside many spectators she interacted with for seven hours. Organisers of the event first noticed Skylar, later calling the police. Neither Skylar nor Vanjae denied the accusations, and were soon transported to a government quarantine facility.
They were both initially sentenced to 40 hours of community service and handed a $2,600 fine for breaching quarantine. However, Patrick Moran, Cayman Islands director of public prosecutions, urged: ‘These offenses should have been met with far more stringent measures.’
During an appeal hearing, he added: ‘When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentence imposed [is] likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals.’
Hughes thought a prison sentence was too harsh for a first-time offender, especially considering her guilty plea, the Cayman Compass reports. Vanjae’s prize money from the event was also taken away, and a temporary ban from riding was issued.
However, citing their ‘selfishness and arrogance’, Grand Court Justice Roger Chapple sentenced the couple to four months in prison. While saying Vanjae should have known better, he said Skylar’s actions were ‘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’.
To date, the government says ‘the vast majority’ of thousands of approved travellers have abided by the country’s quarantine rules. However, numerous other breaches are currently under investigation.
In a letter given to the Caymanian Times, Skylar said she had ‘abused’ the opportunity to visit the country ‘during these trying times’. She also described it as ‘the biggest mistake of [her] life’.
She wrote: ‘My actions spoke of nothing but complete disrespect by disobeying my quarantine rules. I am aware that the Cayman Islands Government has done nothing but dedicate extreme caution to combat the spread of COVID-19, for this the country and its citizens can be extremely proud; I made a mistake, and words cannot express how sorry I am for this.’
Her grandmother Jeanne Mack has written to US president Donald Trump for help, although she told the Today show: ‘We’re not asking for her to get an exception. We’re asking for her not to be the exception… she cries. She wants to come home. She knows she made a mistake. She owns up to that, but she’s pretty hysterical right now.’
Her father Dennis Mack also told CBS 46 News: ‘I don’t know why someone is taking it so personal or [has] such a vendetta toward my daughter or toward an American 18-year-old girl who was there on a vacation and who made a mistake. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching that you take someone so special… the rest of her life is getting torn away from her.’
Hughes is now tasked with seeking a lower sentence for the pair at the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal in a hearing today, December 22.
The press release adds: ‘The public and travellers should be reminded that if found in breach of mandatory isolation they will be warned for intended prosecution and are liable on conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars and imprisonment for two years.’
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Cayman Islands Government
CBS 46 News