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.
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:
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.