Quarantine breach couple appealing jail sentences

Story attracts international attention

Vanjae Ramgeet and Skylar Mack being led out of the courthouse on their way to prison after sentencing on 15 Dec. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Skylar Mack and Vanjae Ramgeet, who were both jailed for four months over a breach of quarantine, are appealing their sentences.

Mack, 18, from Georgia, US, removed her geo-fencing wristband and left quarantine two days into her mandatory 14-day isolation period to attend a jet-ski competition in which her 24-yer-old boyfriend Ramgeet, who is from Cayman, was taking part.

Their case has garnered international media attention, with People magazine, ABC News, Yahoo News, Good Morning America, the Associated Press and Inside Edition all picking up the story.

The pair were initially ordered to perform 40 hours of community service and pay $2,600 for the cost of quarantine accommodation after appearing before Summary Court on 7 Dec.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed that sentence on the basis that it was unduly lenient. Grand Court Justice Roger Chapple agreed and imposed the four-month prison sentences on 15 Dec.

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The judge told the court that “the gravity of the breach was such that the only appropriate sentence would have been one of immediate imprisonment”.

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.”

Mack and Ramgeet are the first people to be sentenced under recently amended regulations to deal with COVID-19 quarantine breaches. Those regulations increased the penalties for such violations to a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison.

The couple’s lawyer, Jonathon Hughes, confirmed to the Cayman Compass that both defendants are appealing Chapple’s decision to overturn the Summary Court’s sentence.

Tuesday, 22 Dec., has been set as a provisional date for the hearing before the Court of Appeal.

Mack’s grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told ABC’s Good Morning America the family feels the four-month sentence is too harsh.

“Skylar is the last person we thought something like this would happen to, and the fact that this can happen to a kid like her is scary,” she said, adding that her granddaughter had tested negative for COVID.

“Four months for breaching isolation when you are negative – why did she have to be the example?” she asked.

Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran had told Chapple at the Grand Court hearing that the initial sentence was not stringent enough, saying, “When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentences imposed are likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals.”

But Hughes told the judge that Mack and Ramgeet had already suffered a significant toll, saying Mack had received hate mail and death threats.

“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 Grand Court.

Both Mack and Ramgeet, through their lawyer, issued letters of apology for their actions before the Grand Court revised the sentence.

In her letter, Mack said, “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.”

Ramgeet, in his letter, admitted he should have known better than to put his local community at risk, adding, “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.”

Following the quarantine breach, six people, including Mack, were placed in mandatory isolation after contact tracing was carried out.

Journalist Norma Connolly contributed to this story.

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  1. “Mack’s grandmother Jeanne Mack, who was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America, said the family feel the four-month sentence is too harsh.

    “Skylar is the last person we thought something like this would happen to, and the fact that this can happen to a kid like her is scary,” she said, adding that her granddaughter had tested negative for COVID.”

    Rich white kids aren’t exempt from the laws of the Cayman Islands. She broke the law and that’s the point – not whether or not she tested negative later. Nothing “happened” to her. She put herself in this position by breaking the law. A rich white kid complaining about a sentence that is a little more than 1/4th of the maximum sentence, knowing full well that she broke the law, is a great example of white privilege. The law applies to everyone, including the young, white and selfish.

  2. So how many times has it got to go before a judge?
    The defense had ample opportunity to put their case at the appeal hearing. They didn’t like the result, so let’s have another go until we get the result we want.
    Sounds a bit like the Trump saga to me!
    Where does this end and how much are you and me paying for it?

  3. These comments sound racist. How do you know she’s rich? She visiting the island because Ramgeet is her fiancé? Guess all these people never made mistakes at this age.
    Just because it is law doesn’t mean it’s right. Slavery was legal in the US. And is still legal in many other countries. Let’s just come up with arbitrary number and let that stick. We have no other income than tourism and that’s failing. So maybe we can stick it to our residents and tourists who come over.

    Soon enough the island will erode and there will be no more. She was negative from her test and doesn’t sound like anyone was infected.

    • It’s that exact mentality why the virus remains unchecked in the US. Don’t bring that to our islands. The Cayman islands is virtually Covid free because all our citizens decided to follow the rules in order to protect each other. We value life over money and we will do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Turns out she was negative, but what if she was positive? How many people could have died because of her selfish actions. People are arrested and charged for DUI most often not because they have killed someone, but because they put other road users at risk by driving under the influence. And in the end you let us worry about our economy, not that you are in the least bit interested.

      • If you truly valued life over money you would’ve banned all tourism right?

        The Caymans are Covid free largely because they are an island, not because of throwing young people in jail for breaking quarantine. A four month sentence will not stop young from being stupid, get real. Whether it ends up being four or 15 months, it doesn’t really matter, nothing good of it will happen for the Caymans as a result. And if something happens to her in prison it could turn into a very serious problem indeed.

  4. I agree the first comment was racist but someone has to be the example. It should have been the Canadian couple but the government blew that one. This is the next person and she broke the law. 4 months in jail is not going to ruin her life but it will set an example. I sat in my condo for 15 days so can everyone else

  5. I love the Caymans and have planned to retire there… however, the harshness of this sentence and the exaggerated response to this pandemic from the island authorities, has me deeply concerned. I hope the residents realize that Grand Cayman cannot survive without outside help, primarily in the form of tourism. Other Caribbean island nations like Aruba, seem to have a better understanding on the importance of this to date. I recognize that too many visitors and particularly entitled tourists are burdensome, but Grand Cayman is not a self sustaining nation and a lot of the quality of life on the island is due to people from other nations, who love it and choose to invest in it.

    • What does tourism have to do with this young women’s blatant refusal to do what was required and asked of her? This is about one thing: agreeing to quarantine in order to be on the Island, this is done to keep others safe. To purposefully remove your wristband in order to go out undetected is a premeditative action to breaking the law. When you break the law, there are consequences. How can anyone be anything other than grateful the Island is taking action and serving her the sentences they both deserve? For being a med student, I would have thought her to be much more savvy than this, and her Grandmother needs to allow her to reap what she has knowingly sowed.

  6. There have been a number of suggestions that the Court of Appeal should increase the sentence, this is xenophobic. Justice has been served and I would be interested to learn the grounds for Mr Hughes’ appeal, in this case he will be wasting the young people’s money, and he should realise it.
    I believe this sentence is fair given the cicumstances so long as the ruling is applied equitably in other cases no matter what their nationality.

  7. Meanwhile we have heard nothing more about the 19 year old man who breached quarantine not once but twice. After breaking out of the government facility he was taken to his mother’s home, where he broke out again.

    This is an adult, a year older than this Skylar lady, who’s old enough to drive a car and vote. Certainly old enough to obey a sensible law that has kept us all safe in our Cayman bubble.

    As to the people who say their punishment was too harsh: Are they perhaps from a country where over 300,000 of their fellow citizens have DIED because this disease was not taken seriously and their “rights” to not wear a mask was more important than someone else’s right not risk death?

  8. She is 18 . She is old enough to vote here in the US . That also means she makes decisions that affect others . 4 months confinement makes her a convicted felon . That might end her medical career . A responsible adult that makes a decision that she made needs not to be in the medical profession . Coming from a wealthy family and being white has no bearing on this matter . She and her partner need to serve the full sentence and if an appeal leads to more , so be it . You pay your money , you take your chance .
    Am behind the Cayman courts 100% on this one . Sadly , she is American and that is an embarrassment . Perhaps a strong message will go out to any future scofflaws .

  9. Reply to Norman L , You are so right on, Guess she was following her Country’s Leaders advice !
    that [man] has almost 1/2 of Americas population following him, I live in Canada and wish he would build his great wall along the Canadian Border, not Mexico ! I have been to the Cayman Islands , its a great place !