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Authorities in the Cayman Islands sentenced an 18-year-old Georgia college student and her boyfriend to four months in prison Tuesday for flouting the independent territory’s stringent coronavirus restrictions and endangering the public.
Skylar Mack, 18, a student at Mercer University, reportedly arrived in the Cayman Islands on Nov. 27th to see her boyfriend, local professional jet ski racer Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, but proceeded to violate the island’s required 14-day quarantine.
“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,” People magazine notes.
Both were reportedly arrested and charged at the scene — Mack with violating the island’s coronavirus rules, and Ramgeet with “aiding and abetting” her — and subsequently placed in a “government quarantine facility for a 14-day quarantine.”
The quarantine ended this past Tuesday, the day that both Mack and her boyfriend were dragged into court to be formally sentenced.
Prior to sentencing day, the original judge overseeing the case had sought to force the couple to undergo 40 hours of community service and pay a $4,400 fine. However, this sentence was scrapped at the last moment because of pressure.
A day before the pair were sentenced, the island’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick Moran, appealed to a higher court for a harsher sentence.
“These offenses should have been met with far more stringent measures. When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentences imposed are likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals. There is nothing exceptional about either defendant that should have warranted the sentence imposed by the lower court,” he reportedly said.
Judge Roger Chapple of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands reportedly agreed. At Tuesday’s hearing, he accused the couple of “selfishness and arrogance.”
“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 added, taking aim specifically at Mack.
Mack’s grandmother, Jeanne Mack, does not agree. Speaking this Friday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” she accused the Cayman Islands’ court of distorting the actual facts and trying to unfairly make an example out of her granddaughter.
“She’s the first person put in jail for this. They needed to make a statement,” Jeanne claimed.
She added that the narrative about Mack not social distancing was false.
“She did socially distance. Her boyfriend actually put — they set up pop-up tents for their tools — he did not put his in the pit with all the other riders. He put it at the opposite end of the beach area so they wouldn’t be right there,” she said.
“And the only people she talked to were people that came to her, and she told them that they needed to stay away, and they chose to stay there anyway.”
More importantly, Jeanne added, Mack had tested negative for the virus a day before the jet skiing event on Sunday, Nov. 29th.
“Skylar had tested negative on Saturday. She had tested on Friday, got her results on Saturday and that’s what frustrates me,” she explained.
“The Cayman Islands is accusing her, their government is accusing her of causing major anxiety of everybody on the island. But it’s because they’re not telling them she was negative. She does not have the virus. She never has had the virus regardless of what they say. They want to hang her for this.”
Jeanne added that she understands that what her granddaughter did is wrong, and she’s likewise “disappointed she did it,” but that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, especially considering that Mack has apologized for her error in judgment.
In a letter to the local community published in the Caymanian Times on Dec. 14th, a day before sentencing, Mack admitted to having shown “complete disrespect by disobeying my quarantine rules” and said “words cannot express how sorry I am for this.”
“I had no intentions to harm anyone around me, that was never the intention, I acted without thinking through my actions. I realize now that I was selfish in the decision I made and that it made a lot of people upset, I am sorry,” she added.
“I assure you that something like this will never happen again. I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest apologies to both the government and the community of the Cayman Islands, I feel terrible about my mistake and I hope that the nation will be able to forgive me.”
The islands chose otherwise, as demonstrated not only by the court’s ruling but also by the negative comments that spawned in response to her piece:
In a statement issued after Tuesday’s ruling, Mack’s attorney, Jonathan Hughes, attributed her mistake to “youthful ignorance and selfishness” but maintained that the sentence is nevertheless grossly overboard.
“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,” he said.
“Ms. Mack has paid her fine in full from her savings, which resulted in a significant portion of her funds being depleted. 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.”
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