An 18-year-old student and her boyfriend have been sentenced to four months in prison in the Cayman Islands for violating strict Covid-19 measures after a recent ruling that will be appealed, their attorney said.
Skylar Mack, from the US state of Georgia, and Vanjae Ramgeet, a 24-year-old from the Cayman Islands, have been in prison since Tuesday when the ruling was issued.
They had both pleaded guilty, but their attorney, Jonathon Hughes, said on Thursday he would argue for a less severe sentence next week.
“They’re two young people who have never been in trouble before,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
“This is the first time they’ve had interaction with police, the courts, prison.”
Mack, who is enrolled as a pre-med student at Mercer University in Georgia’s city of Macon, arrived in the Cayman Islands on November 27 and was supposed to undergo a two-week quarantine as mandated by the government, which electronically tracks anyone who arrives in the British Caribbean territory.
However, she broke quarantine on November 29 when her boyfriend picked her up to attend a water sports event, Mr Hughes said.
Mack’s boyfriend was competing in the jet ski event, according to CNN.
After their arrest, a judge ruled the couple had to provide 40 hours of community service and pay a US$4,400 (AU$5,770) fine.
In addition, Ramgeet was ordered to a two-month curfew that would start at 7pm (local time).
But the prosecution appealed, arguing the punishment was unduly lenient and would not deter other possible violators.
A higher court decided in favour of prosecutors, ruling on December 15 the couple be imprisoned immediately.
The Cayman Compass newspaper reported Judge Roger Chapple said during Tuesday’s sentencing the decision to violate safety measures was born of “selfishness and arrogance”, adding in its report Mack spent seven hours out in public without a face mask or social distancing.
“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,” he was quoted as saying, referring to the electronic tracking device.
Mr Hughes said the sentence was the first of its kind, adding Mack’s family is concerned: “They’re worried for her because she’s in prison in a foreign country on her own. While this is something she brought on herself, it’s very distressing for her.”
The couple have been together for seven months. Mr Hughes said he didn’t know how they met. He noted Ramgeet was a competitive jet skier like Mack’s father.
Skylar Mack’s grandmother appeals to Trump
The girl’s grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told the AP she reached out to US President Donald Trump and received an email from a staffer saying the White House would look into the matter.
In her phone calls from prison, “the minute she starts talking, she starts crying”, she said.
“She’s afraid that once she makes it back to the States, everyone will hate her.”
Mack, who lives outside of Atlanta, said her granddaughter decided she wanted to be a doctor at age 10 and asked for a suture kit at her birthday a couple of years later.
The couple are the first to be sentenced under an amended law targeting Covid-19 violators.
The original law called for a US$2,400 (AU$3,147) fine and up to six months in prison, while the recently amended law calls for a US$12,000 (AU$15,737) fine and up to two years in prison.
Under the original law, a Canadian couple found guilty of violating coronavirus measures were ordered to pay a US$1,200 (AU$1,573) fine each.
The Cayman Islands, a territory of nearly 62,000 people, has reported more than 300 coronavirus cases and two deaths.
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