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.
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.