Heather Mack seeks pre-trial release on bond

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media

Heather Mack, who is charged in connection with her mother’s murder, has been in federal custody at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center since returning from Bali in November 2021. (Photo courtesy of Federal Bureau of Prisons)

Former Oak Park native Heather Mack on Monday, Nov. 21 formally requested a judge grant her release on bond from federal custody as she awaits a scheduled criminal trial in July for conspiracy to murder her mother.

Mack, who spent seven years in an Indonesian prison for her part in the murder of Sheila von Wiese Mack, has been in federal custody at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center since returning from Bali in November 2021.

Mack’s second attorney, Michael Leonard, noted that Mack served a “lengthy period of incarceration,” in Indonesia and that for the past 13 months she “has been detained at the MCC, including in extremely difficult COVID conditions.”

Leonard told Judge Matthew Kennelly his client is not a threat to the general public, saying she has had her passport seized “(or can be, if it is not already in the possession of Pre-Trial Services).”

“Apart from the long-standing conflict that Ms. Mack had with her mother prior to her

mother’s death, Ms. Mack had absolutely no record of presenting any danger to anyone. She has no criminal history, apart from the foreign conviction which arises out of the same issues presented in this case.”

In fact, Mack was arrested five times as a juvenile for battery to her mother, was convicted and placed on court supervision for 18 months, something federal prosecutors alluded to at Mack’s first court hearing on Nov. 2, 2021. Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney told Judge Charles Norgle that the government would subpoena Mack’s medical and psychiatric records to obtain information about her prior “violent attacks” on her mother before the murder.

“It goes to the element of her being a danger to the community,” Kinney said.

Leonard also argued that Mack “has no means to travel.” However, that remains in question; Mack has a relationship with a Beverly Hills socialite and former friend of her mother, who is purportedly planning a book or movie deal with Mack.

In any event, Leonard argued, “any perceived risk of flight can be mitigated by electronic monitoring, home confinement, or other conditions of pre-trial release.”

“In addition, Ms. Mack’s counsel proposes that Ms. Mack live with a third-party custodian, and counsel is providing the contact information for that individual to Pre-Trial Services — as well as providing the identity of that proposed individual to the Government.”

Leonard also stated that “Ms. Mack voluntarily agreed to return to the United States to face the charges at issue in the present case.” Under Indonesian law, Mack was required to leave the country with her daughter, Stella.

But in the days prior to returning to the United States, Mack commented in the media about looking forward to resuming a normal life in California, clearly unaware of a sealed federal indictment charging her with conspiracy to murder her mother.

That indictment was unsealed the morning the FBI arrested Mack as she stepped off a plane at O’Hare Airport. At the time of her arrest, attorney Brian Claypool, who was then representing Mack, told the media that “the FBI had directed Mack to return to Chicago and not Los Angeles as she’d originally planned.”

The attorney Mack retained in November 2021, Jeffrey Steinback, was subsequently sanctioned this past September by the Northern District of Illinois’s Executive Committee. Among the penalties imposed was his effective suspension from the practice of law within the federal Northern District of Illinois for a minimum of one year. He may appear before the court with another attorney present.

On Nov. 17, 2022 Leonard formally confirmed to the court that he had discussed the executive committee’s order regarding Steinback with Mack, saying he “has provided to Ms. Mack the restrictions placed upon Mr. Steinback by this District; discussed those restrictions with Ms. Mack; and Ms. Mack accepts those restrictions imposed by this District’s Executive Committee Order.”

Mack is scheduled to be back in federal court in person the morning of Dec. 21 for a status hearing.

In related news, Mack’s former boyfriend and accused co-conspirator, Tommy Schaefer, was ordered to be placed on the court’s fugitive calendar by Judge Kennelly after he was re-assigned the case following the retirement of veteran federal judge Charles Norgle.

Schaefer, who was convicted along with Mack in a Bali court in April 2015 remains imprisoned there serving out an 18-year sentence.

And last week a Cook County Circuit Court Judge awarded temporary custody of Mack and Schaefer’s daughter Stella to Sheila von Weise Mack’s niece, who lives in Colorado. Three other people were seeking custody of the child, including Schaefer’s mother, Kia Walker, former Sheila Mack friend Diane Roque Ellis, and the Indonesian woman who had been caring for Stella, Oshar Suartama.