Royal Oak Tribune

Cayman Islands court reduces American teen’s sentence for breaking coronaviru­s rules

- By Ruby Mellen

The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Tuesday reduced the sentence of a Georgia teen who pleaded guilty to flouting coronaviru­s quarantine rules from four months in prison to two months, her attorneys said.

Skylar Mack’s family has called for her release, saying the sentencing, the most severe related to the pandemic so far implemente­d in the British overseas territory, is unduly harsh punishment for the 18-year- old student.

“We’re not asking for her to get an exception,” Jeanne Mack, Skylar’s grandmothe­r, told NBC on Monday. “We’re asking for her to not be the exception.”

Her attorneys cheered the court’s Tuesday decision as bitterswee­t, saying they had hoped for an earlier release.

“Whilst it was our hope that Skylar would be able to return home to resume her studies in January, we accept the decision of the Court and look forward to receiving its written reasons in due course,” Samson Law Associates, the law firm representi­ng her, said in a statement.

Mack, a pre- med student at Mercer University, landed in the Cayman Islands on Nov. 27. On arrival, she received a coronaviru­s test and was instructed to quarantine for 14 days, her attorney Jonathon Hughes said. She was also fitted with an electronic tracking bracelet to monitor her movements during the isolation period.

Two days into the quarantine, Mack, after receiving news that her test was negative, removed the bracelet and slipped out of isolation to watch her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, compete in a Jet Ski competitio­n at Grand Cayman’s South Sound.

Event organizers reported her to authoritie­s, who transporte­d her to a mandatory quarantine facility. Authoritie­s said that Mack was not wearing a mask or social distancing when they arrived and that she had been interactin­g with the public for seven hours, according to the Cayman Compass.

Mack was charged Dec. 4 with breaking coronaviru­s-control regulation­s, and Ramgeet was charged with aiding and abetting her.

The two were initially sentenced to 40 hours of community service and fined more than $2,000, but the government appealed for a harsher penalty and won. On Dec. 15, Mack and Ramgeet were taken into custody to serve four months in prison.

Judge Roger Chapple, in delivering his decision, said, “The gravity of the breach was such that the only appropriat­e sentence would have been one of immediate imprisonme­nt.”

Mack’s family says she has learned her lesson. “She just wants to come home,” her grandmothe­r said. “She knows she made a mistake. She owns up to that. But she’s pretty hysterical right now.”

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