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Erm, what?

An American woman who pleaded guilty to helping kill her own mother and stuffing the body in a suitcase during a luxury vacation in Bali was on Wednesday sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors had recommended a 28-year prison sentence for Heather Mack for conspiring with her boyfriend to kill Sheila von Wiese-Mack in 2014.

Mack’s attorney, Michael Leonard, said he expects Mack, 28, will be locked up for roughly 20 years including good behaviour credits available to all federal prisoners. His estimate also accounts for the judge giving Mack credit for the two-plus years she spent in custody in Chicago after completing a jail term in Indonesia. She was deported to the US in 2021.

OK. Murder takes place in Indonesia. Convicted, served sentence. What in buggery is happening when the Feds charge her again?

Yes, I know, douvble jeopardy onoly means in US courts. But still. What are they doing here?

16 thoughts on “Erm, what?”

  1. Maybe the Indonesians simply got tired of paying for the lady’s room and board??

    And thus decided to dump her on the Yanks.

  2. According to the Independent from a couple of months ago:

    The filing of US charges against a Chicago woman convicted of killing her wealthy mother during a luxury vacation in Bali raised questions about how someone who has spent time in an overseas prison can be hauled into an American court on similar charges.

    The US Constitution prohibits prosecuting someone twice for the same acts, commonly known as double jeopardy. But the allegations in von Wiese-Mack’s death involve two countries with their own laws and their own claims to jurisdiction, an expert said.

    It’s a federal crime to kill a US citizen abroad, Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former US attorney in Detroit, told The AP in 2021.

    “The United States government is a different sovereign than the government of Indonesia ” she explained.

    The US must believe “there is some substantial federal interest that was not vindicated by the prior case,” McQuade said. “I don’t know what all the reasons are. But this appears to be a very premeditated plot. This could be the kind of thing where they say: ‘Seven years? That is just not enough.’”

    The 2017 grand jury indictment publicly revealed this week in Chicago was sealed while Mack and Tommy Schaefer were imprisoned overseas. The US Justice Department has always had discretion to dismiss the case or stick with it.

    “If the new administration had wanted to put the brakes on it, they certainly could have done that,” McQuade said Thursday.

    Heather Mack plea hearing: ‘Suitcase killer’ pleads guilty in US over Bali murder of socialite mom

    Seems like someone with influence decided that the Bali verdict was insufficient and nudged the DoJ to take further action. You’d have to look at the circle of her mothers friends with political influence though

  3. Maybe she was done by the Indonesians for committing the murder there, and the Yanks have evidence that she did the conspiring on US soil? To actually kill someone, you can run through a number of different crimes.

  4. “Pretty lenient”, especially since Indonesia does apply capital punishment ( or equivalent lenghts of imprisonment) to premeditated murder….
    You only get 10 years or so if you are considered an accomplice, not the primary offender.

    Now if it turned out she was actually the instigator, and not the accomplice…
    She can’t be resentenced in Indonesia, but she can be retrialled in the US after extradition.
    Double yeopardy is not applicable when there’s significant new evidence in a case afaik, but IANAL.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    She served 7 years of her 10 year sentence in Indonesia. That’s pretty damned lenient for pre-meditated murder.
    Especially in a country that’s not shy in using the death penalty on drug smugglers.

  6. It is reported that the police were called to the Mack home on 86 occasions on theft and domestic violence reports cases between January 2004 and June 2013[6] all relating to domestic incidents between mother and daughter.[7] In January 2010, Heather punched her mother’s broken ankle. She was also accused of stealing $1000. In February 2011, Heather broke her mother’s arm, and then removed the phone cord to prevent her mother from calling 911. In July 2011, Heather again threatened her mother. In November 2012, she bit her mother, leaving a bruise, but her mother refused to allow police to photograph it

    Circumstantial yes but it does rather cast doubt on her merely being the accomplice to her mother’s murder. It’s not difficult to envisage a US court taking a firmer view about the extent of her culpability.

  7. @ John Galt
    18 USC 1119
    (c)Limitations on Prosecution.—
    (1)No prosecution may be instituted against any person under this section except upon the written approval of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or an Assistant Attorney General, which function of approving prosecutions may not be delegated. No prosecution shall be approved if prosecution has been previously undertaken by a foreign country for the same conduct.

  8. Dennis, A Proud Non-Lawyer

    ‘Merica didn’t charge her with murder. She was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

    I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV, but I’m pretty sure those are two different things.

  9. Murder, and Conspiracy to Commit Murder, are two discrete crimes. She was convicted of Murder over there. Acts in furtherance of the conspiracy occurred here. So, proper prosecution here.


  10. She was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

    In which case she could not have been charged under USC § 1119

    18 U.S.C. § 1117 is a federal statute that makes it a crime to conspire or agree with one or more persons to commit murder.

  11. >The US Constitution prohibits prosecuting someone twice for the same acts, commonly known as double jeopardy. But the allegations in von Wiese-Mack’s death involve two countries with their own laws and their own claims to jurisdiction, an expert said.

    I mean, this is fairly normal here – state law and federal law are two different jurisdictions and two different legal codes. And there’s plenty of stuff that’s illegal in a state that’s not illegal federally (and vice-versa).

    You don’t get prosecuted for the same ‘crime’ here, you get prosecuted for violating state law, and then you can get prosecuted for violating federal law, all for the same act.

    This isn’t ‘double-jeopardy’ but ‘dual-sovereignty’.

    If you’re in the military you can potentially face *three* different legal systems for the same act.

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