poor judgment, travel, true crime

My unpopular opinion regarding Skylar Mack…

A few days ago, Bill mentioned a news story he’d read about Skylar Mack, an 18 year old woman who went to the Cayman Islands on November 27, 2020 because she wanted to watch her 24 year old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, compete in a jet skiing competition. Bill told me that Skylar was supposed to quarantine in her hotel for fourteen days before interacting with the masses. Two days after her arrival, Skylar removed the transponder monitoring device that was placed on her to keep track of her movements. She had been tested twice for COVID-19 and had a negative result both times. Apparently, she figured she was good to go, even though she had been told she had to quarantine. She took off the wristband and abandoned the cell phone designed to ensure compliance with the quarantine rules.

Skylar Mack went to the jet skiing competition and watched her boyfriend compete. While she was there, she interacted with the locals. No one wore face masks. Both Skylar and Vanjae were reported to the police. They were arrested, and Skylar was charged with leaving her home during the mandatory quarantine period and Ramgeet was charged with aiding and abetting her. Originally, they were both sentenced to 40 hours of community service and a $2600 fine each. Ramgeet was stripped of his victory at the jet ski event and both were required to write letters of apology. Ramgeet is also banned from the first few jet ski competitions of 2021.

But then local prosecutors decided to appeal the sentence, claiming it was too lenient. Evidently, the day before Skylar broke the rules, the penalties for her crime were increased. The Cayman Islands Grand Court agreed with the appeal, and the young couple was resentenced to four months in prison. Roger Chapple, the judge who changed the sentence said that Skylar had complained that the wristband of her transponder was too tight. It was changed to a looser one that she could remove. He said that indicated that she had been planning to ditch quarantine; therefore her crime was “premeditated”. Originally, Chapple was considering sentencing her to up to fifteen months in prison. He “drastically reduced” her sentence due to “her age, previous good character, and her obvious remorse,” as well as the fact that she and Ramgeet had both voluntarily pleaded guilty.

Grandma speaks. I think she makes sense.

Recently, Skylar’s grandmother has been in the news, tearfully pleading for help getting Skylar released and sent home to Georgia, where she is a pre-med student at Mercer University. Skylar’s grandmother, Jeanne Mack, says that her granddaughter is “hysterical” and can’t eat. The family has called upon Donald Trump for help.

When I first read about this case, I was kind of inclined to agree that she broke the rules and should have to deal with the punishment. I do not condone what Skylar did, and she absolutely should have realized that laws apply in every country and one must follow the local laws or suffer the consequences. But then I read some of the comments people were leaving, which were incredibly heartless and mean-spirited. I’ve mentioned this before– for some reason, a lot of Americans love to see people rot behind bars, especially if the story involves a pretty white woman who comes across as “privileged” and “entitled”. It also occurred to me that plenty of folks seem to think they’re perfect, and forget that everybody makes mistakes– especially when they’re 18.

Let’s take a hard look at Skylar Mack. This is a young woman who has never been in trouble with the law. She’s 18 years old, and indeed, many people would say she’s very pretty. She attends Mercer University, a private school in Georgia, where she’s been majoring in pre-med (but after this fiasco, who knows?). When she was originally sentenced by magistrate Angelyn Hernandez, she paid her fines out of her savings and was working with authorities to set up her community service. She has written a seemingly sincere letter of apology. More than one person has said that she’s truly sorry for what she did. Less than a year ago, what Skylar did would not be considered illegal in any sense.

Reading some of the comments people are leaving about Skylar, you’d think she was some kind of delinquent demon from Hell. I remember being 18 years old and doing stupid things. I never went to a foreign country and broke the laws at that age, but that was because I had no money for travel. In those days, I was lucky if I had gas money to drive across the river in Gloucester, Virginia. But hell, I could have easily gotten into serious mischief as a really young and inexperienced woman. By the grace of God, I was never caught doing anything seriously wrong and, of course, we didn’t have a pandemic going on in 1990. I still doubt Skylar is that much more of a delinquent than I was at that age, back when a person could much more easily stay anonymous. She’s young and was looking to have a good time. Like many young people, she took a dumb chance and got busted.

Skylar was quarantined after she was arrested. She was evidently not infected with COVID-19, so her interaction with the locals did not cause anyone to get sick. Yes, it was disrespectful, foolish, and wrong to do what she did, and it could have been disastrous, but when it came down to it, she didn’t actually harm anyone. Putting her in prison for four months will probably not do much more than cause her a lot of mental trauma that could haunt her for years. Even if she doesn’t get kicked out of her college, this incident could affect her if and when she decides to attend medical school or another post graduate program. The notoriety of this case might also affect her career prospects.

It’s been said that her sentence was much harsher than other people’s sentences for similar crimes. It sounds like she and her boyfriend were being made examples of, in part, because she’s a pretty, white, American woman who is deemed “privileged”. I don’t know Skylar at all. She might very well be a spoiled brat. But because I don’t know her, I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions about her just based on appearances. I don’t think people should get a pass for being pretty and white, but I also don’t think being pretty and white should require that someone is made into an example. Punishments should be fair and fit the crime, and justice should be blind.

Skylar is a pre-med student at Mercer University, which is where one of my cousins went to college. Many people were scoffing at that, given that she flouted public health measures intended to curb the coronavirus. Some physician she’ll be, right? Yes, it was a dumb thing to do, but again, she is BARELY a legal adult. Frankly, I don’t know what she was doing in the Cayman Islands– she should not be traveling right now and the fact that she had the means to be there indicates that she obviously has money. But she was, in fact, allowed to travel, and she made very poor, immature choices that may affect her for years to come. In light of that, her family is calling for help from the U.S. government. As a U.S. citizen, she has the right to request assistance from the State Department.

Lots of people are laughing about Skylar’s family pleading for help from Trump, but I’ll tell you what– if she was my daughter, I’d do the same thing. I think a lot of people would. It’s easy to want to condemn someone to an onerous punishment when they aren’t your friends or loved ones. When it comes down to it, though, most decent people wouldn’t just glibly say something like, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” about a loved one who is locked up abroad, especially at Christmas time. Seriously… if I were Skylar’s mom, I would be pissed off at her. I would let her have it when she got home to me, safe. But until that happened, you bet your ass I would try to help her and be very concerned about her welfare. I certainly don’t blame her family for calling on Trump, although I doubt he’ll be helpful.

Then I think about other people who have done time– Lori Loughlin, who was in the news for many months before she went to prison for two months for fraud. She’ll probably be out by Christmas. And Brock Turner, caught red-handed, raping an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster. He got less than six months. And yes, these are both American cases, but the Cayman Islands are an autonomous British protectorate. It’s not like the Brits are notorious for being super tough on crime, at least not in this day and age (although the prison in the Cayman Islands looks pretty dilapidated). Maybe if Skylar had gone to a country where the laws are notoriously draconian, I might be less sympathetic. But I don’t remember reading about any cases in the Cayman Islands indicating that it’s historically a place where laws are especially strict. The rules surrounding COVID-19 seem to change constantly, anyway.

I think it would have been far more suitable to have Skylar do her community service, pay her fine, and maybe serve a very short stint behind bars. Then deport her, and tell her she can’t come back. Or tell her not to come back for five or ten years. I would imagine she won’t WANT to come back, nor will she ever commit this crime again.

I did see an interesting comment from a person who appeared to be a Cayman Islands native living in the United States. This person was upset that some people were saying we should boycott the Cayman Islands. She wrote:

Hmmm… you say the Cayman Islands will be “fine”, but then you say anyone calling for a boycott is “not decent” and “should not own a passport.” If the Cayman Islands will really be fine, why would you claim that boycotters are not decent people who shouldn’t have passports? Why would it even matter to you?

First off, if enough people decide not to visit the Cayman Islands, regardless of the reason, there WILL be a detrimental effect to the economy. Secondly, I completely understand wanting to protect the islanders from COVID-19, but it seems to me that imprisoning a non-habitual rule breaker who isn’t a citizen would not be the best way to accomplish that. Frankly, after reading this story, I don’t think I’d want to visit the Cayman Islands. I wouldn’t visit there anyway, since I’m in Germany at the moment, and traveling is not a good idea right now. But if I were in the United States, this story and the way Skylar Mack is being treated would not make me want to visit. And that may be just fine with the people of the Cayman Islands, but if enough people felt like me, the locals may not like the end results.

I wish Skylar Mack well. Although I have no plans to write any letters to government officials on her behalf, I hope whatever ends up happening doesn’t ruin or end her life. She clearly has loved ones who are concerned about her well-being and want the best for her. I hope she will cling to that, hang in there, and not let this incident destroy her. Although a lot of people are laughing at her and sending hate mail and death threats right now, I realize that she made a dumb mistake and she should ultimately be forgiven. And those who are laughing at her might want to consider that these days, we’re all a cellphone away from becoming Internet infamous ourselves. I just thank God the Internet was not a thing when I was 18.

That being said… people DO need to follow the rules and not assume that they won’t get caught. COVID-19 is not a joke, and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to get through this together.


12 thoughts on “My unpopular opinion regarding Skylar Mack…

  1. Maybe the second sentence was a bit harsh, but perhaps the local government felt the need to make an example of her. I won’t make that judgement, however. The anonymity of the internet tends to bring out the worst in some people and everyone has an opinion. With modern communications people can state the first thought that comes to mind with no regard to anyone else. Is there a way to make people choose their words carefully? Probably not. It is one of many reasons the world is in deep shit. Most especially in the U.S. Just my 2 cents.

    • Yes, I am sure the government meant to make an example of her. My opinion is only based on what I have read so far. Some people have wondered if her parents or grandmother tried to pull some entitled American BS. It’s possible that happened, but I have not seen it mentioned anywhere, so I am not making that assumption myself.

      I did read that the rules/sentencing guidelines changed the day before she broke the rules. I am not sure if the prospect of a stricter sentence would have persuaded Skylar not to break quarantine. To me, she sounds very immature. Unfortunately, I doubt being in jail is the best remedy for immaturity.

      I am just not a big believer in locking people up and wishing for them to rot. I don’t think it makes things better for most people, particularly when a crime is non-violent. I also think that a lot of people are projecting their own frustrations on this case.

      Anyway, it’s not my decision to make or live with, and thank God for that. I hope she comes through this okay and her life isn’t too ruined. She might very well be a spoiled brat who is sorry she got caught, but it was still her first offense.

      One last thing… regardless of whether or not she deserves her punishment, I think it’s sad that she’s locked up, especially at Christmas. I certainly don’t think this is a laughing matter, as a lot of people indicate. No matter what, she’s a young person in trouble, and that’s not funny to me.

  2. What if she did have COVID after testing negative twice and ended up starting an outbreak on the Island? That is my big takeaway here. She rolled the dice with the country’s COVID plan and people’s lives. It’s like the person who drives drunk but doesn’t hurt anyone – does that make it all right?

    • But she didn’t have COVID, Patti. And other people did not get the same punishment she did. What good does it do to lock someone up in a filthy, crowded hellhole for four months? Who does it serve?

      And do we really want to live like this? People doing things that were perfectly legal and normal a year ago being thrown in jail? Why does jail have to be the punishment for every wrongdoing? She didn’t harm anyone. I don’t see this as akin to drunk driving. She was just breathing, which we all must do. She wasn’t getting loaded. She was wrong to break quarantine and I think the original punishment was just. But what does putting her in jail do, besides expose her to other criminals in crowded conditions and fuck up her life?

      • It will make anyone else who was thinking of doing the same thing think twice, for one. I thought four months was excessiveuntil I read that she asked them to loosen the monitor and ditched her phone, knowing they could trace her that way. She didn’t give one thought to the possibility her actions could cause other people to die – no different than people who drink and drive.

      • I disagree. The death penalty hasn’t deterred people from murdering, has it? People will always come up with an excuse as to why they deserve a break. I don’t believe that reading about Skylar’s jail sentence will do anything to deter someone who is determined to break the rules. They will have an excuse, too. My home state of Virginia is a big death penalty state and has been for years. But we still have murders there. The fact that they are quick with the needle doesn’t stop people from killing.

        If she had gone down there untested or knew she was positive or had been around people she knew were COVID positive, I might buy your drunk driving comparison. People who drive drunk almost always know they are drinking and shouldn’t drive. As it stands, I still disagree with putting her in prison. She is a healthy 18 year old who had two negative tests. She did not make anyone sick, because she is not sick and did not knowingly infect anyone. And people still get the virus even when they do everything “right”. It’s a fact.

        She might very well be a spoiled, entitled brat with a bad attitude, but I think this sets a nasty precedent that could have effects beyond this case. I don’t agree with imprisoning Skylar. I don’t condone her actions and I think the fine was fair, as was community service… even deportation and maybe a brief jail sentence. But four months is excessive, and may very well cause her problems for the rest of her life. And I am really fucking tired of the shitty way people treat each other these days. People are LAUGHING at this young woman and her family, and issuing death threats. It’s complete insanity.

      • Well, that’s your opinion. I don’t wish her to rot but I have zero sympathy. Like I always told my kids – if you break the law it doesn’t matter what I think, it doesn’t matter what you think – it matters what the law is. I would have been telling her not to go to begin with and I would be telling her to buck up and ride it out.

        And you can’t compare it to drunk driving but you can compare it to murder and the death penalty? I do think all this publicity will cause a lot of people who thought about dodging the laws regarding COVID in other countries to think twice about it.

      • It is my opinion, and it is my blog. I fully accept that my opinion is unpopular and even mentioned it in the title. I disagree with you. Can you live with that?

        I mentioned on my page and in an earlier comment on this post that it’s not my decision to make or live with. All I did was write a blog post on my space. You don’t have to agree with me, but I have the same privilege not to agree with you, especially on my space. Plenty of people are posting about what a “bad” person Skylar Mack is. I disagree, and wanted to write about it. Is that such a terrible thing?

        I agree with you that Skylar shouldn’t have gone to the Cayman Islands. She seems immature to me, and not quite ready to be on her own. She is 18, though, and 18 year olds don’t magically mature just because they are 18. If she were my daughter, I would have strongly discouraged her from going and I sure as hell would not have bankrolled this. But I have researched the jails in the Cayman Islands and if I were her mother, I would damn sure be doing what I could to get her out of there.

        She may very well have to do her time. I hope she gets through it and recovers, as she is only 18 and has her whole life ahead of her. I know a lot of people want to dismiss her as a brat, but I worry about her mental health, because I have been in the hell of depression, anxiety, and feeling worthless. I am genuinely concerned about her mental health. I can be concerned and still not condone what she did, and I have repeatedly stated that I do NOT condone her irresponsible actions. I just think this punishment is more than it should be. That is simply MY OPINION.

        I am not writing letters to get her out of jail, I am simply expressing my opinion on my space, which I feel pretty fine about doing. I spent over $500 today to renew the domain and plan on WordPress. You don’t have to agree with me, but that privilege extends to me, too.

  3. I have mixed opinions where Skylar is concerned. I strongly oppose a system in which the prosecution can appeal a sentence for being too lenient after it has been handed down. It would seem that the prosecution should need to give its best shot at impressing the gravity of the offense upon the justice system prior to the sentence being announced. I am partial to systems that are weighted in favor of a defendant.

    I personally feel that a short jail or prison sentence would have been appropriate, but four months was far too long in my opinion. Anything from two to four weeks would have been fine with me.

    You probably know this, but there are probably twenty students who call themselves “pre-med students” for every student who actually makes it into medical school (including osteopathic medical schools). I’d love to know what Skylar’s real major is, as “pre-med” is a set of prerequisites and not an actual major or minor. The majority of prospective med students major in biology, but the prereqs can be fulfilled with something more specialized (my pseudouncle was a microbiology major; my dad and I were biochemistry majors; Matthew was a biology major). Even a chemistry degree will do with the right electives.

    In any event, Skylar can probably get both a book and a movie deal when she returns. That will pay for a large chunk of her med school if she can pull herself together well enough to focus on her studies when she returns, assuming she’s legitimate med school material. Now that osteopaths take the same boards as we do and fulfill the same residencies (though they usually have to take the residencies traditional medical students didn’t want), it has opened doors for those who might otherwise have been more marginal candidates.

    I do feel sorry for Skylar. I don’t identify with her so much because I didn’t routinely engage in especially risky behaviors at her age, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still feel for her and show her some compassion. I wish someone from our government would intervene on her behalf. I don’t know anything about how dangerous the prison system is there, but I’d hate for anything tragic to happen to her.

    • Well, her sentence was reduced, which I think it a good thing. Your point about a potential book and a movie deal is one I hadn’t considered, but I suppose it’s plausible that could happen. I guess I was mostly responding to all of the hate I read about her. I think a lot of it is fueled by people who are fed up with the pandemic and what they see as a spoiled brat thinking she’s entitled. But I didn’t get the impression that she was as bad as people claim. I think jail is too often handed down as a punishment when it’s not always appropriate.

      She should be punished, but rotting in a cell isn’t appropriate, in my opinion.

  4. Vida I Martin says:

    I understand what you mean when you say that your opinion is unpopular, because I, too, felt that the sentence seemed harsh. My family, who are from the Caribbean, have the opinion that if it was the other way around and a Cayman Islander broke a similar law here that they would not be lenient. I look at it as though if it were my child, I would want her to understand what she did, apologize, and make some sort of reparations (fines, community service). I think that having her serve out the rest of her quarantine under house arrest would have sufficed because who knows if she’s exposed to COVID now.

    • Thank you so much for commenting, Vida! I appreciate getting a perspective from someone who understands the culture more than I do. I felt like the amended four month sentence was originally done just for appearances. I agree that what should be most important is correcting the behavior, not so much putting someone through hell and making everyone suffer (including family and friends). And yes, sitting in a jail cell isn’t safe for most people right now. I think it should be reserved for those who are truly a danger to others.

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