American Teen and Boyfriend Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison for Breaking Quarantine in Cayman Islands
An American teenager and her boyfriend from the Cayman Islands have been sentenced to four months in prison for flouting the Caribbean island's strict Covid-19 quarantine requirement.
Skylar Mack, 18, a student from Loganville, Georgia, and Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, a professional jet ski racer from the Cayman Islands, received the sentence on Tuesday morning, after the island's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Patrick Moran, decided to appeal their original sentence of a $2,600 fine and 40 hours of community service each.
According to the office of the DPP, Mack arrived in the Cayman Islands on November 27, and was required to undergo a minimum 14-day quarantine-in-residence, per Caymanian Covid suppression guidelines. On November 29, Mack instead left her residence and removed her geo-fencing bracelet, which tracks her location, in order to watch Ramgeet compete in a jet ski event.
Both individuals are said to have interacted with members of the public at the event for more than seven hours without social distancing or wearing masks.
Mack, whose father is also a professional watercraft racer in the U.S., was detained by police at the scene. Both she and Ramgeet — who was charged with aiding and abetting his girlfriend — were placed in a government quarantine facility for a 14-day quarantine, which ended on December 15.
Mack and Ramgeet both pled guilty to their offenses.
"Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020, the Cayman Islands Government has prioritized the safety of its residents and their protection from the global COVID-19 pandemic. To accomplish this goal the Government employed stringent isolation and social distancing policies," the Cayman Islands Government told PEOPLE in a statement.
"Anyone wishing to enter the islands is required to quarantine in an approved facility, or at residence using monitoring technology . . . Breaches of quarantine may result in prosecution and penalties of up to $10,000 KYD [approximately $12,195 USD] and two years' imprisonment," the statement says.
According to local news outlet the Cayman Compass, Moran decided to appeal the couple's original sentencing of a fine and community service because he did not think the sentence fit the crime.
"These offenses should have been met with far more stringent measures," Moran said while appearing before the Grand Court on December 14. "When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentences imposed are likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals."
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"There is nothing exceptional about either defendant that should have warranted the sentence imposed by the lower court," Moran said.
Attorney Jonathan Hughes, who is representing both Mack and Ramgeet, told the court that he believes the new sentence is too harsh, and that both have already paid a significant price for their actions, according to the Compass.
"There is no way that it can be right that a custodial sentence is imposed for a first-time offense on an 18-year-old defendant, who entered an early guilty plea," said Hughes, noting that he believes his clients' mistakes were due to "youthful ignorance and selfishness."
"Ms. Mack has paid her fine in full from her savings, which resulted in a significant portion of her funds being depleted," he continued. "She has received hate mail, so far as to say even death threats. This has even impacted her father, who is also a professional jet-ski rider and has now lost sponsorship because of it."
Ramgeet was stripped of his victory at the jet ski event, and was made to return his prize money and trophy. He was also required to write a formal apology to the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association, and will not be allowed to compete in the first few races of 2021.
In a letter sent via Hughes to the Compass on December 13, Mack wrote: "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… I was afforded the opportunity to enter the islands during these trying times and I abused it. I am humbly asking for the forgiveness of the community."
In his own letter, Ramgeet shared, "I should have known better than to put our community at risk as I did. I made a decision without thinking about the long-term effects it would have on our community; words cannot express how truly sorry I am for the anxiety, frustration, and inconvenience that you all have experienced."
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