For a few moments Thursday morning, as a Cook County judge waited for Marilyn Hartman to step into his courtroom, it looked as though she might have eluded authorities once again.
But unlike in an airport lounge, the slight, bespectacled woman with a tidy silver bob was hard to miss amid the dour inmates and beefy sheriff’s deputies, most of whom towered above her.
The serial stowaway had no need for deception, though, because shortly after she was led into Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr.’s courtroom at Grand and Central, he told her she could go free — but not before warning her, three times, to stay away from O’Hare and Midway.
“Can you stay away from the airports?” he said.
“Yes — yes, Your Honor,” she said, barely above whisper.
“Jail’s not so fun?” Panarese asked.
Hartman, who has had repeated arrests for sneaking onto airplanes without a ticket and entering restricted areas of airports, is accused of doing it again — this time, police say, illegally boarding a Jan. 14 flight to London. She was arrested by British customs at Heathrow International Airport the next day.
She faces one misdemeanor count of criminal trespass to land and one felony count of theft or unauthorized control greater than $500 but less than $10,000. She had been held in the Cook County Jail on $25,000 bond, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Thursday, Panarese reduced that to $10,000 and ordered her released on her own recognizance — but warned her, twice, not to go to the airport. As she turned to leave, he warned her a third time.
“Stay away from O’Hare and Midway,” he said.
Chicago Police say Hartman successfully got through security and was able to board a bus to the O’Hare International terminal. After spending approximately 24 hours in the international terminal, the 66-year-old Grayslake woman successfully boarded a British Airways flight without a boarding pass by blending in with the passengers, a police spokesman said.
“British customs picked her up upon arrival after being forewarned by the airline there was a passenger on board without a ticket and a boarding pass, although she was able to find a seat,” he said.
In a statement, the TSA said, “We take this case very seriously and have followed it closely since it occurred. As a result, we know that the individual was screened at our checkpoint. We, along with industry partners, from airlines to airports, are currently reviewing ways to keep this from happening again, to include additional physical security measures at the checkpoint.”
Hartman, who once told her public defender she grew up in Chicago and went to Chicago Vocational School but has no family and has lived in shelters in the city, claims she feels airports are safer then living on the street.
Three charges of violating probation were filed in 2016 in connection with similar incidents. She had been placed on house arrest at the Margaret Manor mental health facility that year. A police source said she walked away from that Near North Side facility more than once. The house arrest was imposed after she was charged with trespassing in February 2016, after she slipped away from another mental health facility for a clandestine visit to O’Hare International Airport. That trip also led to charges for violating probation after she was charged in attempts to sneak onto planes at O’Hare and Midway on consecutive days in July 2015.
At a hearing in 2016, prosecutors said Hartman had been stopped by police on airport property a dozen times in four states. In August 2014, she successfully boarded a Southwest Airlines flight from San Jose to Los Angeles by slipping past TSA agents checking a family’s boarding passes.
Contributing: Michael Sneed, Sun-Times Wire