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Family of U.S. student jailed in Cayman Islands for violating COVID-19 rules calls on Trump to intervene

Georgia teen jailed for violating COVID rules
Georgia teen jailed in Cayman Islands for violating COVID protocol 02:01

Update: An appeals court reduced the American college student's sentence to two months in prison. Read the latest here

The family of a U.S. college student who was imprisoned for violating coronavirus restrictions in the Cayman Islands is calling on the Trump administration to intervene. Skylar Mack, an 18-year-old pre-med student at Mercer University in Georgia, was sentenced to four months in prison after breaking her mandatory quarantine. 

"She just wants to come home," her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told the "Today" show on Monday. "She knows she made a mistake, she owns to up to that, but she's pretty hysterical right now."

On November 27, Mack flew to Grand Cayman where she was ordered to quarantine for 14 days and fitted with a smart wristband and given a cell phone to track her movements, according to her attorney, Jonathon Hughes. Mack signed a document, agreeing not to leave her place of isolation without permission and not to remove her wristband. 

Two days later, she was seen at a jet skiing competition with her boyfriend Vanjae Ramgeet, a Cayman Islands resident. Mack wasn't seen wearing her wristband, and they were both reported to local police and transported to a mandatory quarantine facility. 

Skylar Mack
Skylar Mack WGCL

On December 4, Mack was charged with leaving her home during the mandatory quarantine period and Ramgeet was charged with aiding and abetting her, said Hughes. Later that day, they were both given 40 hours of community service and fined $2,600 each. 

However, prosecutors appealed the sentence, calling it lenient. The Cayman Islands Grand Court agreed and the young couple was resentenced to four months in prison, Hughes said. 

"We're not asking for her to get an exception," Jeanne Mack told "Today." "We're asking for her not to be the exception."

Judge Roger Chapple explained his decision at the hearing on December 15. "This was as flagrant a breach as could be imagined; it was borne of selfishness and arrogance," Chapple said, according to the Cayman Compass newspaper. "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." 

The Cayman Islands have reported 311 positive coronavirus cases. More than 280 patients have recovered, while two residents have died.

Hughes plans to argue for a lesser sentence at an appeals court on Tuesday. "The court will hear the case at a special sitting on tomorrow morning and we hope to have a decision soon thereafter," Hughes said.

The Department of State on Monday said it works to provide "all appropriate consular assistance" to U.S. citizens detained overseas. "The Department of State is aware of reports of the detention of a U.S. citizen in the Cayman Islands," the department said in a statement. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment."

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