A Georgia teenager and her boyfriend from the Cayman Islands were sentenced to four months in prison for violating the island’s coronavirus measures, authorities said.
Skylar Mack, 18, of Loganville, and Vanjae “VJ” Ramgeet, 24, a professional ski jet racer, have been in jail since Tuesday, when the sentence was handed out, according to the Cayman News Service.
Both Mack and Ramgeet pleaded guilty to the charge, but their attorney, Jonathon Hughes, said he will appeal for a less severe sentence next week.
“They’re two young people who have never been in trouble before,” Hughes said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “This is the first time they’ve had interaction with police, the courts, prison.”
According to the island’s director of public prosecutions, Mack arrived in the Cayman Islands on Nov. 27, People reported. She was required to undergo a minimum 14-day quarantine-in-residence, per Caymanian COVID-19 suppression guidelines, the magazine reported.
Two days later, Mack 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 reported.
“They weren’t wearing any masks,” Cayman Island journalist Andrel Harris told U.S. media outlets. “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.”
Mack and Ramgeet were arrested.
Justice Roger Chapple said Mack had committed a planned, selfish act, the Cayman News Service reported. Chapple added there was no alternative to a custodial sentence, despite her age, good character, admissions and her circumstances. Chapple said Ramgeet was older and should have known better when he assisted his girlfriend to attend the event, the news service reported.
In a letter sent via Hughes to the Cayman Compass on Sunday, 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,” Mack continued. “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.”
“I should have known better than to put our community at risk as I did,” Ramgeet wrote in a letter, which was also published in the Cayman Compass. “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.”
Mack, a pre-med honor student, was originally sentenced to a fine and community service, WSB-TV reported. Mack’s family accused the government of trying to make an example out of her.
“Skylar is the last person that this would happen to,” her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told the television station. “The fact that this could happen to a kid like her is scary to me.”
Hughes said the sentence is the first of its kind and told the AP that Mack’s family is concerned.
“They’re worried for her because she’s in prison in a foreign country on her own.” Hughes said. “While this is something she brought on herself, it’s very distressing for her.”
“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,” Hughes told People. “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.”
Jeanne Mack told WSB that the sentence is unfair.
“Four months for breaching isolation while testing negative is a bit much,” Mack told the television station. “Why did she have to be the example?”
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