Judge denies Mack motion to dismiss murder conspiracy charge

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media

Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Federal Bureau of Prisons)

Heather Mack must face trial for conspiracy to murder her mother, a judge ruled May 10. The ruling denying a defense motion to dismiss count 2 of the indictment, Conspiracy to Murder, means Mack will stand trial for the most serious charge, which carries a sentence of between 40 years to life in prison upon conviction.

Mack also faces two lesser charges related to her attempt to hide evidence of the August 2014 crime in Bali, Indonesia.

Mack’s attorney, Michael Leonard filed the motion to dismiss in February. He argued, among other things, that the government failed to demonstrate that it obtained approval of the U.S. Attorney General to prosecute her for the foreign murder of Sheila von Wiese Mack, as required under Section 1119 of the U.S. Criminal Code.

That section bars the prosecution of a defendant in the United States where the defendant was previously prosecuted by a foreign country. Mack was convicted in Indonesia in April 2015 of aiding in the murder of her mother, with boyfriend Tommy Schafer. He remains imprisoned in Indonesia serving an 18-year sentence.

Mack was paroled by Indonesia and deported to the United States in November 2021 after serving just over seven years of a 10-year prison sentence.

In response to Mack’s motion to dismiss, the government argued that the limitations of section 1119 do not apply because while section 1119 was mentioned in the indictment, Mack is formally charged with violating section 1117, not section 1119.

“The Court agrees with the government,” Judge Matthew F. Kennelly wrote after summarizing the defense and prosecution arguments in his ruling.

“While the government had mentioned Section 1119 in the indictment, it explicitly cited Section 1117 as the governing law in its indictment,” Judge Kennelly wrote. Section 1117, the judge noted, “prohibits conspiracy to commit various forms of murder, full stop.”

He further noted that the caption on the first page of the indictment “lists only 18 U.S. Code §§ 956(a)(1), 1117, and 1512(c)(1). This confirms what is otherwise readily apparent: Mack is not charged with committing the foreign murder of her mother in violation of section 1119.”

The defense had also argued for dismissal on constitutional grounds related to wording in Section 1119. However, the judge said his ruling that Section 1117 governed the terms of the indictment made it “unnecessary for the Court to delve further into the parties’ constitutional arguments.”