Skylar and VJ stay in jail but time halved

| 22/12/2020 | 287 Comments
Cayman News Service
Skylar Mack arrives at the courthouse in George Town

(CNS) UPDATED WITH LAWYER’S STATEMENT: The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal handed down a reduced sentence on Tuesday, when they cut the jail time for Skylar Mack (18) and Vanjae “VJ” Ramgeet (24), who were convicted for breaching quarantine regulations, from four months to two. The justices did not explain the reasons for the change, but after listening to arguments from Ben Tonner QC, representing Mack and Ramgeet, and prosecutor Greg Walcolm, they said a written judgment would follow.

The local competitive Jet Ski star and his American girlfriend, who is a pre-med student from Georgia, were remanded back into custody and taken to HMP Northward and HMP Fairbanks respectively, where they are expected to serve a further four weeks of the now reduced sentence. All prison sentences under one year are automatically cut to 60% for inmates provided they maintain good behaviour.

Tonner had argued that the original community sentence order imposed by Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez should be reinstated because it was within the sentencing guidelines. He further argued that, as an experienced judge of quarantine related issues, the magistrate had weighed all of the circumstances of the case.

Tonner told the appeal judges that Justice Roger Chapple, who had imposed the jail time, had taken undue notice of the public clamour and, allowing the general fury to override other sentencing considerations, made an example of the young couple and imposed an unduly harsh sentence. Tonner also said the summary appeal judge had failed to consider additional material that was presented to him which was important to the case.

Much had been made of Mack’s premeditated behaviour in having officials loosen her geofencing bracelet before the Jet Ski event, which was the reason why she broke quarantine. But Tonner pointed out that the public health officials who came to Mack’s isolation residence to loosen it had noted that the band was cutting into her arm and agreed it was too tight before refitting a new band.

In his defence of the judge’s sentence, Walcolm argued that Justice Chapple was not overly influenced by the public anger. Although he was aware of it and the importance of reflecting the will of legislature, his focus was on the deterrent power of the sentence, which was especially important in this case, the lawyer for the crown said. He pointed out that Mack was subject to the same conditions as returning residents and workers here, but as a visitor it was a privilege for her to be allowed in.

Walcolm argued that it was the magistrate who had taken little notice of the need for the deterrence and the change in the regulations by lawmakers, which had multiplied the existing punishment by four times to show how seriously a breach of quarantine here is taken.

Following the appeal court’s decision, Jonathon Hughes from Samson Law, who represented the couple and had instructed Tonner, said they were all grateful to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal for agreeing to hear this case with such urgency and for the consideration they gave to it.

“The court allowed our appeal and agreed with our submission that the four-month sentence imposed by the Grand Court was not appropriate in the circumstances of this case,” Hughes said.”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.”

Hughes added that Mack and Ramgeet continue to express remorse for their actions and ask for the forgiveness of the people of the Cayman Islands.

The sentence has divided the Cayman community. Some people were shocked that the courts would send a couple with no previous convictions to jail for a first offence, while others see the case as critically important in preserving Cayman’s safe bubble. It has also attracted much media attention in the United States, where Mack’s family has been petitioning the Trump administration to intervene.

Given the huge difference in approach towards the COVID-19 pandemic between the Cayman Islands, which has the virus largely contained, and the United States, where many see even mask mandates as an affront to personal freedoms, it is appears to be very challenging for some in the US to appreciate the decisions made by the authorities here to keep the islands safe, which have considerable public support.

The case was heard by appeal court justices President Sir John Goldring, with Sir Richard Field, and Sir Alan Moses.


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Comments (287)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Lovely to see all the kindness and joy being spread in Cayman during the holidays. This article seems to have brought out the best in all of you.

  2. Tony Destiny says:

    The first sentence of a fine and community service would have sufficed . Like Jesus said, he who hasn’t sinned, let him cast the first stone. Prisons and jails are not the answer to every bad thing everyone does, but we’ve come to use them to address nearly every societal ill. We’ve gone too far on the punitive side. We need to focus more on fairness, compassion, and mercy. She doesn’t deserve to be in prison. What’s that going to achieve?

    • Anonymous says:

      Would you have preferred that her behavior led to the whole island going back into a 4 month lockdown? Just curious as to whether you thought her actions were fair?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I feel sorry for them, but it had to be, it was possible that she could caused community c-virus spread and possible shut down the Island and possible caused deaths.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Doesnt sound like much of a deterrent then does it?

  5. MR says:

    And just so people understand the “third-world, black-run prison” Skylar is in – the Cayman Islands average daily population at HMP Fairbanks is 16 inmates according to local 2019 statistics.

    Not sure how many prisoners are there at the moment but the living conditions would surely be the best in the world.

    There is no ocean view, unfortunately, but it is situated in an upper middle class neighborhood, minutes away from private schools – would be nice to record and publish a tour of the facility actually.

    • Susie handle says:

      It’s a converted animal shelter so I am sure it is super nice and comfortable. . A nice neighborhood does not mean anything when you get to be outside one hour a day.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just so I understand. An 18 year old girl brings in jet ski parts into a country, that doesn’t allow tourists, for her 24 year old boyfriend play with his toys and she is deemed the mastermind?

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman isn’t alone in jailing quarantine breaches. Jail time is being handed down in Isle of Man, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and in Florida, for example.

      See today’s Compass:

      https://www.caymancompass.com/2020/12/24/quarantine-breach-penalties-abroad/

    • Anonymous says:

      I just read an NBC report. Skylar’s family is making no secret that Skylar came to Cayman explicitly for her boyfriend’s skedoo competition.

      The competition took place two days after her arrival.

      Then she called the authorities who obligingly loosened her geofencing bracelet on the pretext that it was too tight.

      Obviously that was all hogwash and the court saw through that.

      If you want to throw yourself on the mercy of the court, then don’t fabricate evidence.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If she was 17 we could have put her in a cage like tRump did to children

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe She’d never see grandma again. Trump is doing Satan’s work, right up to the end.

      • Anonymous says:

        And Bush is doing Caymanians God’s work? Asking for Jesus.

        • Anonymous says:

          The majority of us Caymanians don’t disagree with you that. Many of us don’t like him or his meager sentence either. However, if you think the court here was too lenient on him, consider we did a better job convicting& sentencing him than the Florida (yes, in the great United States) did. If the US court had locked him up based on the CCTV footage they had, it would have solved our problem. But no, the great United States didn’t punish him at all for similar behavior.

    • Anonymous says:

      Obama built the cages, pics used to malign Trump taken in 2014, guess who was president? Cages has always been hyperbole also. In Cayman we put them back out to sea with and are forbidden to give them water or food. If they stay get put in cages. Again, hyperbole, maybe you prefer jail?

      • Anonymous says:

        I hope you’re not comparing The Great Satan to Obama. What ever Obama’s shortcomings may have been, his actions were not undertaken with evil intentions like those of the worst American President in history, Donald J Trump.

    • Anon says:

      Sorry, it has been proven over and over again that the children/cage policy was an OBAMA policy.

  8. MR says:

    USA news boasting that she is a “pre-med student” – that should be the last thing broadcast in headlines. Who needs a future doctor or health care worker who doesn’t follow health protocols in a PANDEMIC that practically shut the world down!

    And as for news anchor Jesse Watters – SHAME ON YOU!

    To publicly suggest “sinking Cayman’s economy” because we insist on protecting our people and the THOUSANDS of Americans and their families who live and enjoy the freedom and safety our Government fights to maintain in a PANDEMIC!

    You should publicly apologize to the American residents living in the Cayman Islands for wanting to make them lose their jobs and have to return to America where millions of people are at this moment signing up for covid-related unemployment benefits – SHAME ON YOU Mr Watters!

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman’s economy is destroyed thanks to Cayman government’s policies.

    • Anonymous says:

      Couple points.
      Jesse Watters isn’t a news anchor.
      You forgot about the Caymanians that lost their businesses for your freedom. Houses soon next if not already gone.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There are rules you have to abide by – they broke the rules – now they have to accept the consequences.

    How hard is it to stay in isolation for fourteen days?

    • Anonymous says:

      My daughter got released yesterday after 14 days in quarantine.
      No complaints apart from being a bit bored. No hint that she would break quarantine.
      No and she’s only 18 but knows how to follow simple rules and abide by the contract she signed.

      I’d like to think its how she was bought up but maybe its just genes.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A black run jail? Racist much?

  11. Pigs Get Fat says:

    She is asymptomatic and tested negative.

    Sure you might catch a tiny tiny percentage more covids if you make even ones that are negative get quarantined. I know, other countries don’t matter, but for example aruba allows travel in the country immediately if you test negative. Whatever.

    So you throw her in jail where she is even more likely to catch and spread disease..

    I could understand a fine, but jail seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face both with discouraging tourism and also by increasing risk of spread of disease.

    The real story is that going hard on tourists hurts regular Caymanians the most. The elites will still get their big semicrookish and crookish investor monies. But the middle class loses and smaller biz is destroyed just like what is happening in USA UK EU. Picking winners and losers. Costco ok, local outdoor restaurant not ok. No mask is forbidden but a dirty old bandanna makes you a hero. No thought to science or providing N95 or KN95 etc. Instead, subsidies to businesses and corporate fascism.

    So yeah, she should have followed the law. But throwing her in jail? Just hurting lower and middle class locals long term.

    • MR says:

      FYI: the Cayman Islands has absolutely NO Covid cases within either of our two prisons – and it’s simply because we do not play with this dang virus! Keep your loose protocols please.

      And as for hurting small businesses – you know what hurt them the most? Covid.

    • Anonymous says:

      This will not deter Americans to come to the Cayman Islands – these islands are just too nice and beautiful to stay away from.

      • Anonymous says:

        You will find that safety of American tourist is more important that pretty beaches.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pigs Get Fat: you may want to take a look this article on what a negative test actually means:

      *https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/06/how-negative-covid-19-test-can-mislead/6132

      • Anonymous says:

        12:47
        you may want to take a look this article on what a POSITIVE test actually means:

        WHO (Finally) Admits PCR Tests Create False Positives.
        “Some labs are doing 45 spins when 25 was the agreed upon number for accuracy..beyond 25 false positives show up”

    • Anonymous says:

      The potential penalty (up to 2 years in jail!) was published and well known when she agreed to come and follow our quarantine rules. Our quarantine rules give no leniency for a negative Covid test and again she would have known that. If she did not like or ageee by the rules OR the potential punishment, why did she agree to them??

  12. Anonymous says:

    “Imagine your child ending up in black run and filled jail”. CNS surely this sort of racial inflammatory commentary is completely inappropriate to be printed ! Freedom of speech has its limitations and this is not appropriate or acceptable if not illegal!!! Won’t comment on the ignorance of the person that wrote this.

    CNS: I honestly thought about whether to publish or not, but I think it shines a light on some of the comments about how “evil” Cayman is to jail a young white American girl.

    • Al Catraz says:

      It is revealing.

      Honestly, it underlies the “concern” Americans have about this story. This story resonates with the Natalee Holloway disappearance in Aruba among white Americans for the same reason.

      “Bad thing happens to young blonde white girl in country filled with dark-skinned savages” has been popular ever since King Kong.

    • Know your facts says:

      Uummm…
      It is NOT a “Black” run prison. There are a few colored employees but there are also caucasian employees as well. She is on a pedestal at HMPFB whilst the Caymanians are the ones being ill treated. Know what you are talking about before you put your foot in your mouth again. The only thing on Ms. Macks’ mind right now, is still trying to get out of there before the new year rolls in.

      Perhaps some of us civilians should have a link or two in both prisons, that way you know what’s going on and the luxuries she and others are provided with on a daily basis.

      I don’t hear anyone complaining when Caymanians get locked up nor do I hear anything about anyone else being locked up; just Skylar… is it really because she is American and we are afraid to lose tourist’s?

      Or, are we making a stink because she broke the law in another man’s country?
      In that case, some of us should go to Atlanta and commit a crime, get caught and see if Alden or Big Mac, or lets just say the Government on a whole will fight for our return to the island…

  13. Anonymous says:

    Pretty sure you don’t really know much about humanity. BTW, they hunt black people in Georgia.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Caymankind Bobo

  15. Anonymous says:

    The irony – big uproar in the USA for the POTUS pardoning his friends yet we have this young lady who broke the laws in Cayman and they want to boycott the Cayman Islands for doing the right thing to protect the community??

    • Anonymous says:

      As a mother I am sympathetic, especially given her age, but Skylar did present a real risk that the event she attended for seven hours could have become a super spreader.

      Her first negative test in US doesn’t mean anything more than at that particular time she wasn’t testing positive.

      According to reports, “the test may overlook small but growing amounts of virus”. (*See article link below on what a negative test really means.)

      It is equally true that she could have become infected at any point during travel since testing.

      Her negative test at the airport similarly only means at that time she wasn’t testing positive, further to which contacts all along the way to her residence had potential for transmission.

      Covid-19 has on average a five-day incubation period. When she left quarantine she had been here for two days only.

      So her behavior was clearly unsafe.

      Bermuda, which has about same population as Cayman, as of today has a reported 553 total cases, with 223 active cases, clearly indicating community spread.

      We are only too keenly aware that arrival of visitors place Cayman at risk for similar or worse circumstances.

      Cayman has sacrificed a lot to get where we are, and with the vaccine on the horizon, avoiding risks is a matter of urgency.

      Our schools have been reopened safely since September 2019. We don’t want another lockdown.

      These are all the reasons Skylar is in jail.

      The consequence of her own choices in contravention of our quarantine rules is most unfortunate for her and I feel for her, but we must simply protect our population from any further hardships, hospitalizations and even death.

      *https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/06/how-negative-covid-19-test-can-mislead/6132

  16. Anonymous says:

    At least with all the press being kicked up in the US about this spoilt kid, her university should now be on notice that they have a criminal enrolled. I would hope they deem her inappropriate for the medical profession, but given the loss of fees suspect they’ll turn a blind eye.

    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      Once she has served her time, her debt is paid. Her life after that should be her own. People can change, you know? You have. I have. Perhaps this event will give her an insight into her profession that she might not have otherwise had.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ummm we have a professional criminal for our president. Why should we worry about a love starved teen acting naughty.

  17. Anonymous says:

    He invited her to watch his competition that took place 2 days after her arrival. He picked her up to watch it. She might not even known about draconian law that took effect one day before her arrival. She was and is negative. She is severely distressed and traumatized. Imagine your child ending up in black run and filled jail in a foreign country. She was dragged by handcuffs yesterday while her BF walked by himself also handcuffed. They seem to intentionally humiliate her. They let Canadian couple free, though could jail them for 1 year. They picked a child instead. Just look at her, if your heart is not bleeding, I lost my faith in humanity.

    • anonymous says:

      Then I guess you have to figure how to get your faith back I suppose. this sounds like nothing more than a lot of inflammatory remarks to favor sympathy. She was not DRAGGED. She should be distressed and traumatized since she committed a premeditated act against the laws and people of the Cayman Islands. In some ways she and her boyfriend are no better than those playing Russian roulette with other peoples lives and health. And by the way whether it is a DRACONIAN law or not this is a pandemic and a serious matter for most other countries except for areas of the U.S. which are highly publicised. She and her boyfriend should have thought of the any consequences but more so thought of the country and its people not selfishly wanting what’s best for them. By the way under what rule was she allowed into Cayman and how long was she actually going to be here for?

    • Anonymous says:

      Cry me a river

    • Anonymous says:

      She brought jet ski parts with her for him. This was always her intention. Laws are laws no matter your interpretation. They both made a stupid decision and they are both paying the price. She can either walk to prison or be dragged. She is not a child, she is legally an adult, she is old enough to vote, drive, fly unaccompanied, join the military, get married have children, have an abortion, and go to jail like an adult for the crime she committed . She does not get a free pass because she is a young white American. She will serve her time and then she will be deported.

    • Raises brow... says:

      Do your research and stop drawing halfway conclusions based on your speed skimming of one article.

    • Anonymous says:

      What she did could have harmed an entire country’s people and economy! Would you be sorry if we’d had a massive outbreak caused by her, and all the companies that have so far managed to survive have to shut down again, with more jobs lost? I thought not. Sit down and shut your face.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Stupid sentence. I will never spend one penny visiting this island.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks!

    • Anonymous says:

      6:06 Good, we do not want trash like you. Stay tf away.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good, sounds like you’re a d!ck anyway.

    • KY1 says:

      Good, if you can’t comprehend how their breach could have compromised the health and economy of these Islands we don’t want you. In the meantime thousands who appreciate our science based approach to this pandemic are lining up to come and make our economy even stronger.

    • KY1 says:

      Good, if you can’t comprehend how their breach could have compromised the health and economy of these Islands we don’t want you. In the meantime thousands who appreciate our science based approach to this pandemic are lining up to come and make our economy even stronger.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good we don’t need your shitehole money,we rich here in Cayman and not just with money and we certainly don’t need self entitled scums coming here to infect us all, please stay away.

    • Anonymous says:

      No one cares

  19. Anonymous says:

    Honors medical student breaking quarantine.

    The irony is so hard not to laugh at.

    Attorney spinning and attempted international tarnish once again by entitled, above-the-law individuals. (Money doesn’t leave the shores though) Meanwhile, Cayman bends over backward to accommodate the interests of tourism while the interests of locals are always somehow disrespected and placed as second-class afterthoughts.

    Everybody involved in these rollbacks needs to grow two brain cells to rub together. (including Trump legion grandma; Dear, he’s pretty busy right now.)

  20. Anonymous says:

    If this sentence was to serve as future deterrence, I think it achieved its objective. With the amount of publicity this has locally and globally, I think everyone will just stick with the two weeks of quarantine than risk several months in prison. Precedent set. Not getting away with a fine.

  21. Sacred Vessel says:

    “My Lords, my client is really really sorry. That she was caught. Please look past the dishonesty and the threat to the Islands. Think of my client’s self-entitlement. She wants to be a doctor and she is entitled to be that.”

  22. Anonymous says:

    Someone writes about Skylar:
    “ Why are people complaining. She is a criminal who openly and blatantly broke the law. The law says up to 2 years jail”

    If she is a criminal, then who dishonorable Bush is?
    He blatantly broke the law. The law says up to 5 years in prison. As for his exemplary character, he seems to be a habitual offender taking into account FL charges that were ~dropped~.

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