UPDATE: Georgia teen Skylar Mack has returned to the US after serving her prison sentence in the Cayman Islands. Read through the article to get the full story, or get the updates and Mack’s comments at the end.
Authorities in the Cayman Islands have sentenced a US teen to two months in prison for violating COVID-19 quarantine measures. Eighteen-year-old pre-med student Skylar Mack of Georgia traveled to the islands to see her boyfriend compete in a jet ski competition. Now, both face jail time after fierce debate about what their penalty should be.
An Ill-Advised Trip
Mack traveled to the Caymans from the Atlanta area on Friday, November 27 in order to see her boyfriend, 24-year-old Vanjae Ramgeet, compete the following Sunday. However, she neglected to take into account the Caymans’ mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all visitors to the region.
According to the New York Times, Cayman authorities enforce the quarantine with electronic bracelets and an app called Stay Safe Cayman. Upon arrival, visitors are issued a wristband and required to log the location of their quarantine. They are then required to stay at that location until they show negative results in a COVID test taken on the 15th day of their visit.
Authorities say Mack broke quarantine by slipping off her wristband before escaping to the beach to watch Ramgeet race on Sunday. According to the Cayman Compass, she spent seven hours in public without a face mask or social distancing. However, attendees at the race who recognized Mack reported her to the organizers, who then called police.
The Trial of Skylar Mack
A Cayman court then charged Mack with breaking quarantine and Ramgeet with aiding and abetting her. Both pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 40 hours of community service and a fine of roughly $3,100. However, the prosecution appealed the sentence, lobbying for a harsher punishment to deter further quarantine violations.
Judge Roger Chapple agreed, calling the pair’s actions “as flagrant a breach as could be imagined” in a re-sentencing hearing on December 15.
“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,” Chapple said.
The court then upgraded the pair’s sentence to four months imprisonment.
Back in the US, Mack’s family leapt into action, gathering character testimonial letters from people that know her in the hopes of overturning the new sentence. Her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, even appealed in a letter to President Trump. She received a response from the Office of Presidential Correspondence assuring her that her concerns had been sent “to the appropriate federal agency for further action.”
Meanwhile, Mack’s and Ramgeet’s attorney, Jonathan Hughes, also resolved to have the sentence overturned.
“They’re two young people who have never been in trouble before,” Hughes told the Associated Press. “This is the first time they’ve had interaction with the police, the courts, prison.”
Appealing The Sentence
The suspects and attorneys convened in front of a panel of judges on December 22 to hear appeals to the sentence. The panel then voted to reduce the pair’s prison sentence from four months to two.
“Whilst it was our hope that Skylar would be able to return home to resume her studies in January, we accept the decision of the court and look forward to receiving its written reasons in due course,” Hughes said in a statement.
“Ms. Mack and Mr. Ramgeet continue to express remorse for their actions and ask for the forgiveness of the people of the Cayman Islands,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Jeanne Mack had some choice words for her incarcerated granddaughter.
“I’ll do everything to get you home, and when I get you here, I’m going to kick your butt,” she said. “We’re not saying, ‘poor, innocent Skylar.’ We’re simply saying the punishment does not meet the crime.”
UPDATE 1/19/21 — Mack Returns to US
Skylar Mack has returned to Georgia after serving a 32-day prison sentence for violating quarantine. Cayman authorities released both Mack and Ramgeet on January 15 after serving just over half of their two-month sentences.
According to the New York Times, Cayman Islands law only requires defendants to serve 60% of their prison sentences before becoming eligible for release.
In an interview with Good Morning America on January 19, the Georgia teen accepted the consequences of her actions, saying she “deserved it.”
“The anger, the disappointment, it’s all justified,” Mack said of the public backlash to her crime.
“I would have never been able to live with myself knowing that I could have been the reason somebody could have even just been sick,” she continued. “The action itself was serious, but like how much worse it could have been.”
No infections were confirmed as a result of Mack’s breach of quarantine, and she has never tested positive for the virus, reported Good Morning America.
Still, Mack says she understands forgiveness will be hard to come by.
“It was a selfish decision. There’s no reason I can give you to grant me a second chance,” she said. “I don’t expect anybody to ever forgive me, but I would like for them to at least let me be able to show them that I did learn from it.”