Former Oak Park resident Heather Lois Mack pleaded guilty Friday morning, June 16, to conspiring to kill her mother Sheila von Wiese.
In an hour-long hearing, Judge Matthew F. Kennelly accepted Mack’s guilty plea, and set sentencing for Dec. 18.
Mack, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, but with no handcuffs, answered Kennelly’s question in a clear voice.
One of her defense attorneys, Jeff Steinback, told the court that Mack “had a hand” in asking for certain things to be considered by the government. Chief among those requests were that the judge consider her seven years’ time served in a jail in Indonesia as counting for “time served” off her sentence.
Mack has made previous statements that she has served nearly 10 years and, “I felt that I had done my time, so I was gung-ho for trial.”
When Mack is sentenced in December, she will automatically have 25 months taken off her sentence for the 25 months she has served in federal custody since her return from Indonesia. While it seems highly unlikely she will get credit for the time served in Bali, that decision will be solely up to Kennelly.
Regarding the plea agreement sentencing range, Kennelly noted that he will “have to consider the range, but I will not be bound by it,” or any other terms in the deal between the defense and prosecution.
If Kennelly sentences Mack to prison for 28 years or less, Mack will have to accept the sentence, with no right to appeal. If the judge settles on a sentence higher than the plea range, Mack will have the right to withdraw her plea and either re-negotiate the terms or undergo a trial.
Kennelly emphasized the outlines of the agreement, telling Mack, “Let me say it again. So, if I agree with the cap (of 28 years), you won’t be able to appeal. If I don’t agree with the cap, I will tell you that and you’ll be able to withdraw your plea deal and go to trial.”
When Kennelly asked Mack if she understood all that he’d said, and if she wanted to enter a plea, Mack said clearly, “I plead guilty, your honor.”
Kennelly said he found Mack competent to make the plea and pronounced her guilty of conspiring to murder her mother, adding, “I’m accepting the guilty plea, but not the plea agreement yet,” he said.
Besides von Wiese’s brother Bill Wiese and sister Debbi Curran, Kia Walker, the mother of Mack’s former boyfriend and co-defendant, Tommy Schaefer, was present in the courtroom gallery.
Mack’s primary defense attorney, Mike Leonard, noted that “The terms of the plea go from zero to a 28-year cap, but the judge would have to agree with the 28-year cap.”
“We’re hopeful that he accepts the cap, but if he doesn’t, we’ll sort of be back to square one, and be back to a trial track.”
Leonard added that the plea agreement does not contain any type of cooperation clause that would require Mack to testify against Schaefer.
Wiese, accompanied by his sister Debbi and wife Caroline, made a brief statement to the media afterword, but took no questions. He said both he and Curran “are in agreement with the plea agreement.”
And he expressed a sense of relief.
“After almost nine years, we are very relieved that the master mind of Sheila’s murder had pleaded guilty today,” Bill Wiese said.