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‘Serial stowaway’ Marilyn Hartman gets 18 months probation for sneaking on plane

Marilyn Hartman walks through the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse with her lawyer, Parle Roe-Taylor on Tuesday after entering a plea deal that will allow her to go free on 18 months probation | Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

Marilyn Hartman, the silver-haired 67-year-old who became an international media phenomenon for her skills at sneaking onto airplanes, was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months probation after pleading guilty to a criminal trespassing charge.

The plea deal closes out two cases pending in Cook County, and comes just over a year after Hartman was arrested after sneaking aboard a British Airways flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. Three days later, while on electronic monitoring on bond for a theft charge related to her illicit ride to England, she again was caught wandering at O’Hare Airport.

“I do apologize for the airport… for causing problems,” Hartman said before Judge Peggy Chiampas handed down the sentence.

“Serial stowaway” Marilyn Hartman | AP Photo
“Serial stowaway” Marilyn Hartman | AP Photo
AP file photo

Chiampas congratulated Hartman on a glowing progress report from staff of A Safe Haven, the mental health facility where Hartman has been living since last summer. Chiampas recalled that she had served as a bond court judge at one of Hartman’s previous arrests for sneaking onto airport grounds years ago — and that Hartman had then defied Chiampas’ order to stay away from the airport.

“Those were different circumstances,” Chiampas said. “A Safe Haven has been your safe haven, and I am really proud of the progress you have made.”

Hartman was deemed unfit to stand trial and spent four months at a state mental institution in Elgin after a county psychologist said she suffered delusions that she was being persecuted and had “preoccupation with media attention.” Court officials said Hartman was responding well to treatment, and in July, Hartman was moved to a halfway-house style mental health center near the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

“She stands here as a testament to her wanting to engage in treatment,” said her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Parle Roe-Taylor.

In the courtroom gallery before her hearing Tuesday, Hartman chatted cheerfully with her case worker and spectators. An electronic monitoring anklet peeking from the leg of her gray sweat pants, Hartman said she hoped to find an apartment in Chicago or nearby suburbs. Hartman had lost her spot in a senior housing facility in Grayslake after her arrest.

Before Chiampas formally approved the plea deal, Assistant State’s Attorney Kimellen Chamberlain ticked off eight other convictions Hartman had faced in five other states, all on minor charges related to Hartman appearing at airports or boarding flights.

Hartman’s plea deal bars her from O’Hare or Midway airports— unless she has a ticket for a flight. She could face up to three years in prison if she violates her probation.

As Hartman headed to the basement of the courthouse after the hearing to have two electronic monitoring devices removed from her ankles, her lawyer said she was optimistic that this would be Hartman’s last criminal case.

“I think we all hope that this has worked and that she’s in a good place,” Roe-Taylor said. “She is doing really well with all the things that are being required of her. I have no reason to think that she will return, but I also don’t have a crystal ball.

“We have some success stories. The criminal system is still is not a place to deal with mental health issues.”