4 months for ‘selfish’, ‘arrogant’ quarantine breachers

Skylar Mack and Vanjae Ramgeet were immediately taken into custody Tuesday to begin their four-month prison sentences for breaching mandatory quarantine, after the government successfully appealed an earlier judgment that imposed community service and the cost of isolation accommodation.

Justice Roger Chapple heard the appeal in Grand Court on Monday and delivered the revised sentence Tuesday morning, setting aside a Summary Court judgment which imposed 40 hours of community service and payment of $2,600, the standard cost of isolating at a government quarantine facility.

When returning his decision, Chapple stated that he understood the need for a balancing act. However, he found that “the gravity of the breach was such that the only appropriate sentence would have been one of immediate imprisonment”. 

Mack, 18, and her boyfriend Ramgeet, 24, each pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with COVID-19-suppression regulations. 

The charge stems from an incident on 29 Nov., when Mack attended a crowded jet-ski event in South Sound, in which Ramgeet was participating. Mack, who had arrived on island two days prior to the breach, was required to self-isolate for 14 days before she could leave her home or interact with the public.  

Despite these requirements, on the day of the breach, Mack is said to have interacted with the public for more than seven hours. When police arrived at the event, she was not wearing a mask and was not practising social distancing. 

When appealing Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez’s Summary Court sentence, Director of Public Prosecution Patrick Moran told the court the judgment was unduly lenient, and did not reflect the wishes of Parliament, nor did it reflect the sentencing principles of deterrence and punishment. 

“These offences should have been met with far more stringent measures,” Moran told Chapple during Monday’s appeal hearing. “When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentence imposed are likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals.” 

Moran said that when reaching her verdict, Hernandez was also wrong to have taken into account Mack’s scheduled return flight to the US on 22 Dec. 

During the same hearing, Jonathan Hughes, who represented both defendants, urged Chapple not to set aside Hernandez’s sentence, noting that both defendants had already paid a significant toll. 

“Ms. Mack has paid her fine in full from her savings, which resulted in a significant portion of her funds being depleted,” said Hughes. “She has received hate mail, so far as to even say death threats.” 

He added, “There is no way that it can be right that a custodial sentence is imposed for a first-time offence on an 18-year-old defendant, who entered an early guilty plea.” 

Hughes told the court that Ramgeet was stripped of his victory at the jet-ski event, and the prize money/medals/trophy were all returned; he was required to write a formal apology to the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association; and he would be banned from riding in the first few races at the start of the next season. 

The day before the breach, the latest COVID-19-suppression regulations had taken effect, which increased the penalties for violating quarantine protocols.

Under the previous regulations  a sentence of up to one-year imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,000 could be imposed for a breach of the quarantine requirements. The new regulations increased the sentence to up to two years imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

“This was a clear and unambiguous statement from the legislature,” said Chapple, when commenting on the new regulations, noting the custodial sentence was doubled and the fine raised by a factor of 10.

When returning his decision, Chapple said it was the court’s duty to reflect the will of the Parliament and to impose a sentence on behalf of the people. 

“This was as flagrant a breach as could be imagined; it was borne of selfishness and arrogance,” said Chapple. 

When sentencing Mack, Chapple said, “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.” 

In explaining his decision, Chapple said he started with 15 months in prison. 

“This sentence requires a drastic reduction to reflect the strong mitigating circumstances, those being her age, previous good character, and her obvious remorse,” he said, also citing Mack’s early guilty plea, before setting a four-month prison term.

Chapple then turned his attention to Ramgeet, imposing the same sentence and telling him that as a Caymanian who endured lockdown, he should have known better than to have acted in the manner that he did. 

Mack, a medical student at the University of Georgia, will be required to leave Cayman upon completion of her sentence, and the court has recommended that she not be allowed to re-enter the country as long as the borders remain closed.

 

Original story: An 18-year-old visitor and her Caymanian boyfriend were each sentenced to four months in prison for their respective roles in a quarantine breach case that has sparked outrage across Cayman.

Skylar Mack, from the United States, and Vanjae Ramgeet were sentenced Tuesday morning after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the original sentence.

The pair was originally ordered to pay $2,600 each and perform 40 hours of community service. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson last week told members of Parliament that government planned to appeal that sentence.

Justice Roger Chapple heard the appeal on Monday and delivered the revised sentence Tuesday. He started with a 16-month sentence before settling on four months due to mitigating factors. Mack was in tears as the sentence was announced while Ramgeet sat in silence.

Check back on this developing story throughout the day.

(Kevin Morales contributed to this report.)

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now

14 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t see remorse at all, just verbiage supplied by their attorney.
    Two obviously ego-centric teenagers who have absolutely no regard for the law or public health.
    By the way, being eighteen years of age in the United States does not qualify to be “medical student “, but rather a college freshman.
    By the time her sentence is over she will be able to stay on the island because the border will have reopened.

  2. AS I UNDERSTAND IT, IF YOU GET CAUSHT WITH A BULLET IN YOUR LUGGAGE, YOU GO TO JAIL, IF YOU GET CAUGHT WITH MARIJUANA OR ANY OTHER NON PRESCRIPTION DURGS, YOU ARE IMMEDIATELY LOCKED UP AND GONE FROM THE ISLANDS FOREVER.. SO WHY DOES THIS ISSUE NOT WARRANT THE SAME REPURCUSSIONS.. IF YOU COME TO THE ISLANDS BECAUSE YOUR ENTITLED MIND HAS TO WEAR A MASK WHERE YOU LIVE, THEN YOU SHOULD STAY WHERE YOU ARE, AS YOU CAN NOT ADHERE TO THE LAWS OF YOUR OWN GOV’T… WHY ARE YOU GONNA RESPECT OURS…SEND ANYONE WHO BREAKS QUARANTINE BACK TO WHATEVER COUNTRY THEY ORIGINATE FROM AND NEVER LET THEM BACK IN.. I FEEL LIKE THAT WILL END ANY ISSUES WITH QUARANTINES.. SELL YOUR 3RD HOME IN THE ISLANDS CAUSE YOU BEEN BLACKBALLED..

  3. This is absolutely absurd. The criminals in government should be hauled into court and sentenced to prison.

    Some of us will keep this in mind and NEVER visit the Cayman Islands again.

    Educate yourselves. Read some books:

    “The Price of Panic – How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Castastrophe” – by Douglas Axe, William Briggs & Jay Richards – 200 pages discussing why the cure has been worse than the disease.

    “COVID OPERATION” by Pamela Popper – 400 pages of well researched and referenced information. In my opinion, Pamela has the most important focus that it is critical that we restore freedom.

    “CORONA False Alarm? Facts and Figures” by Dr. Reiss & Dr. Bhakdi – A much smaller book which gives the German point of view. This is critical to see that this is not a USA political issue, this is a world wide issue repeated in country after country.

    “Slanted” by Sharyl Attkisson – An award winning, experienced, well known journalist who left her very lucrative contract with CBS News because honest, impartial investigative journalism has been suppressed and virtually stamped out over the past twenty years. She explains very well in even just the first couple dozen pages how the “Narrative” is pushed and the truth is hidden.

  4. First of all, I’m an American, and I’d like to apologize to the citizens of the beautiful Cayman Islands for the arrogance and selfishness of one of our citizens. She is reported as being 24 by some news sources (what parents would let their 18 year old college student fly to the Caymans by herself to visit her boyfriend?) Regardless, even at 18, she is old enough to vote, marry, serve in the military, and I’m sure she drinks alcohol. In other words, she is old enough to know better and understand that when you visit another country, you respect their laws and customs not the other way around.

    Unfortunately, there are many adults in our country who behave just like this young lady which is why we have the worst COVID numbers in the world. It’s shameful. Her behavior is shameful. Four months might seem “excessive,” on its face, but not when you consider the possible consequences of her behavior. If she has exposed others to this virus the suffering and death that follows, especially on an island, would be tragic and tantamount to manslaughter. She belongs exactly where she is and as a young adult needs to face the consequences of her choices. Her parents need to stop trying to rescue her from those choices. That too is part of the problem.

    I wish the authorities in America would start enforcing our lock-down laws and requiring violators, of which there are many, to face punishment. Perhaps then we would be able to control the virus as well as you have done in the Caymans. Suck it up, Princess.

  5. No doubt, this girl was stupid. But she and her boyfriend were punished to send a message to Americans. You know the message I got? Never, ever go to the Caymans. Never send them a penny of our tourist dollars. There are lots of other places to visit that treat Americans better.

  6. Four months, really? They’re treating her like this because she’s white. Two weeks in forced quarantine and then sent home, but place her in prison for 4 months, in the general population and possibly get infected, or God knows what else, then What? Tell me this isn’t reversed racism. Here’s an idea everyone, BOYCOT the Cayman Islands!! Just like Charles said, there are other nicer places to visit.

  7. she is not a medical student..she is a college freshman who has not even finished year 1….her lack of adherence to a medical quarantine says a lot about her future as a medical professional…another couple of privileged children who need to face consequences…good job and keep up the good work

  8. The lesson here is truly that actions really do have consequences. If you don’t want to face those results, than don’t break the rules or the laws! IF you choose to visit another country you are morally, ethically, and just out of respect, bound to follow their laws and rules. If you won’t, do not go to that country! IF you are rich enough to travel, you need to have the maturity and kindness to honor the country you visit! The Cayman’s are lovely and treat visitors quite well if you are decent and follow the law.
    This was a deliberate flagrant act, not in any way a simple error. We simply don’t all get to pick and choose the rules and laws we agree with and in our arrogance break the ones that are inconvenient to what WE want to do.

  9. If the Cayman Islands are so serious about keeping everyone safe, why are they having “crowded events in the South Sound” in the first place? Seems like they want to have it both ways. The punishment is too harsh, she is 18. Make her miss Christmas and then send her home , lesson very much learned and $2600 poorer.

  10. As an American I travel often visiting other countries. I don’t want to be an ugly American visitor and try my best to check travel advisories, local laws and driving rules. I try to learn customs that would offend locals if I breached those customs. I try to behave the way I would like visitors to behave when visiting here. When in other countries I am aware they are not going to fool around and give me a slap on the wrist because I’m a tourist, especially if I blatantly thumbed my nose at the law because it didn’t fit my plans. Wake up woman, you are an adult now and whether you like it or not, whether you agree or disagree with the punishment, there are consequences in life.

  11. As an American, I also want to apologize! Did you read the comment from the girl’s father? Oh my God, what a jack’butt’ … now we know exactly where this young woman got her lack of morals and ethics. What a family of jerks! I hope her time behind bars changes her ‘world’ view, I’m sure it won’t, but I guess there’s always hope.
    It’s been too long since my wife and I have visited the lovely Caymans. As soon as all this Covid is over, we’ll need to get back show our support! Lead on Cayman!