In an exclusive in the New York Post newspaper, Australian journalist Andrea Dixon reports that Heather Mack says she was originally offered a plea deal carrying a sentence of between 15 and 35 years in the murder of her mother, Sheila von Wiese.
“We were offered a good plea. First, it was 15 to 35 [years]; now they are saying zero to 25 years, including time served,” Mack reportedly told Dixon, who is working on a book on the Mack case and has remained in contact with the accused killer and Oak Park native.
Federal prosecutors will all but certainly seek a sentence at the high end of whatever maximum is agreed to. The final decision on sentencing will, of course, remain with Judge Matthew Kennelly.
Mack’s suggestion that the new deal includes an offer of “time served” is erroneous. Inmates who are incarcerated prior to trial all receive credit for time served. She also continues to indicate she has a tenuous grasp of the degree of legal jeopardy she is in, telling Dixon, “I have served nearly 10 years in prison (she has in fact served less than nine years). I felt that I had done my time, so I was gung-ho for trial.”
Had she in fact gone to trial, Mack would have faced the strong likelihood of a sentence of 40 years to life upon conviction. With that sentence, even if she was eventually released, she would have been required to be on court ordered supervision for the remainder of her life.
Dixon wrote that Mack’s defense attorney, Michael Leonard, noted that the decision to seek a plea deal was “a balancing act,” and that the process “requires a constant reassessment of risk and reward.”
In the article Leonard said he hoped “that the judge will seriously consider the time (Mack) has already served and all the underlying circumstances of her life and her relationship with her mom.”
Leonard has previously stated in court filings that Mack and von Wiese “had an extremely complicated and troubled mother-daughter relationship,” and that he intended to explore “Ms. von Wiese’s own emotional and mental health issues, including with respect to the use of alcohol.”
Oddly, Mack suggested that a felony record “was fine” with her, telling Dixon, “I’m going to be a felon in America, and that is fine.” She followed that with the assertion that “I understand from [the U.S. government’s] perspective that, if I don’t plead guilty and they didn’t indict me, I wouldn’t be a felon,” ignoring the fact that she was indicted and will be pleading guilty to a felony.
If the usual time frame is adhered to and Mack is sentenced in September, she would get credit for 22 months time served. If she received the high-end sentence of 25 years, she would serve 250 months of her 300-month sentence, less the 22 months already served, making her net sentence 228 months, exactly 19 more years.
That would place her release from prison a month prior to her 47th birthday.