An 18-year-old college student from Georgia has been sentenced to four months in prison in the Cayman Islands after breaking the British Caribbean territory’s Covid-19 protocol while visiting her boyfriend for a jet skiing competition, according to her family.
Skylar Mack, a pre-med student at Mercer University, left for the Islands November 27 after testing negative for Covid-19 at home, her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told CNN.
When Mack landed, she was given another Covid-19 test, which came back negative and she was told to remain in isolation for two weeks. Instead, she decided to attend her boyfriend’s jet ski competition two days later.
“In her mind, as long as she stayed away from everybody, she would be OK to go watch her friend’s race, it was their big national finals race, the last race of the year, big deal,” her grandmother said.
Race attendees, who knew Mack, reported her breach of isolation and officials arrested her.
Her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, is said to have “aided and abetted her in the breach,” the Cayman Compass newspaper reported. He was also charged with failing to comply with Covid-19 regulations, according to attorney Jonathon Hughes who represents the couple.
According to her grandmother, Mack acknowledged in court that she had “screwed up.” She was initially sentenced to 40 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine to cover her mandatory quarantine accommodation.
According to the section about tourists’ isolating upon arrival in the Cayman Islands’ Covid-19 regulations, a “person who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars and to imprisonment for two years.”
The Cayman Compass reported that the deputy director of public prosecutions of the Cayman Islands, Patrick Moran, then appealed the original sentence.
“These offences should have been met with far more stringent measures,” Moran reportedly told the judge. “When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentences imposed are likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals.”
According to the Cayman Compass, Justice Roger Chapple heard the appeal in Grand Court on Monday and delivered the revised sentence Tuesday morning. He reportedly stated that he understood the need for a balancing act, but found that “the gravity of the breach was such that the only appropriate sentence would have been one of immediate imprisonment.”
Hughes, Cayman Islands attorney for Mack and Ramgeet, confirmed to CNN that the couple had both pleaded guilty to breaching quarantine rules and been given four-month custodial sentences. Hughes said he plans to argue for a less severe sentence next week.
“We expect the appeal to be heard by the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Tuesday morning,” he said.
Mack’s grandmother told CNN that officials called Mack’s actions premeditated, as she had called the public health department to have the location tracker bracelet loosened the day before her breach. But her family says Mack sent them pictures of the bracelet cutting into her skin.
“She did wrong. We’re not doubting what she did wrong. I just don’t think the punishment meets that,” Jeanne Mack said.
Mack was immediately taken to prison, where she is being held in the general population. According to her family, she is allowed to call them daily.
“She cries every time she calls home. She hasn’t been able to eat since they put her in prison,” her grandmother told CNN.
According to the family, the US Embassy in the Cayman Islands told them Mack is being made an example of.
“I truly believe she needed to get in trouble, because she did something wrong. I don’t believe she needed to go to prison for four months for one breach,” Jeanne Mack said.
Martyn Roper, governor of the Cayman Islands issued a video statement Friday saying, “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.”
CNN’s Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.