Family of Teen Arrested in Cayman Islands for Breaking Protocol Appeals to White House for Help
The family of a U.S. college student arrested in the Cayman Islands for breaking quarantine is appealing to the US government for help.
Eighteen-year-old college student Skyler Mack has been sentenced to four months behind bars in the Cayman Islands after she broke the island's COVID-19 quarantine protocol.
The teen’s grandmother, Jeanne Mack, sent a letter to the White House this week urging the U.S. government to help her granddaughter.
Mack’s grandmother shared with the Today Show, "She just wants to come home. She knows she made a mistake, she owns up to that, but she's pretty hysterical right now."
Her grandmother has also expressed that the U.S. embassy in the Cayman Islands shared with her that the island is handing out this harsh sentence to make an example out of the teen. Mack's grandmother pleaded on the Today Show, "We're not asking for her to get an exception. We're asking for her not to be the exception.”
Teen Violates Cayman Island Protocol
The teen went to the Cayman Islands on November 27 to watch her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, compete in a jet ski competition. When she arrived on the Island, she was supposed to quarantine for 14 days before she could leave and interact with the public. Instead, she quarantined for only two days and after receiving two negative COVID-19 tests, she broke quarantine and removed her tracking device to attend the ski event.
Once she broke quarantine, Cayman police indicated that Mack had been interacting with the public for over seven hours and had not been wearing a mask during that time or practicing social distancing. Police also noted that Mack had removed her geo-tracking device that all travelers into the Cayman Islands are required to have on per COVID-19 regulations.
Mack and Ramgeet were both arrested and charged with one count of failing to adhere to regulation three of the COVID-19 regulations. Ramgeet was also given an additional charge of aiding and abetting.
Both Mack and Ramgeet pled guilty to the charges on December 4th and were sentenced to 40 hours of community service. Mack was also required to pay a $2,600 fee to cover mandatory quarantine accommodations the government provided. The teen was set to return to the States on December 22nd.
Upgrade in Charges
On December 14th, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence, stating that it was too lenient. DPP Patrick Moran expressed to the court, “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.”
Moran went on to explain to the court that the couple were intentionally reckless in their behavior because they did not adhere to any social distancing guidelines at all. Moran also expressed that he felt there should have been a greater financial penalty to dissuade this type of behavior from happening again. Additionally, Moran recommended that the pair should face jail time anywhere from four to six months.
The attorney for both Mack and Ramgeet strongly opposed the appeal and shared with the Cayman Compass Daily News, “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. The magistrate was correct to have taken into account the severity of the breach, as well as the youthful ignorance and selfishness of the defendants.”
Both Mack and Ramgeet apologized to the Cayman Islands for their violation of the COVID-19 protocol. In a letter that Mack sent to the Cayman Compass on December 13th, the teen shared her remorse by stating, “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.”
After a review of the appeal of the original sentence, the courts came back with a sentence of four months behind bars. Judge Roger Chapple, who heard the appeal stated, "The gravity of the breach was such that the only appropriate sentence would have been one of immediate imprisonment."
Mayor of the Cayman Islands Martyn Roper seems to share a similar sentiment as he expressed the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols through a video statement he made last week. Roper says in part, "All of us have to show individual and collective responsibility if we're going to effectively deal with this pandemic, and I particularly appeal to all travelers coming back to the islands -- please comply fully with the guidance and the advice that you're getting."
Mack's grandmother has shared that she has gotten a response from the U.S. government in which the White House says it will direct her message to the “appropriate” federal agency, which will most likely be the U.S. State Department.