CHICAGO — “Serial stowaway” Marilyn Hartman went to Chicago's O’Hare International Airport for the first time in a year after she saw a TV news broadcast about her that triggered a regression in her mental health, her attorney said in court Thursday.
Hartman, 69, was arrested Tuesday at the airport’s CTA Blue Line station after leaving her residential facility without permission. She was in court Thursday on a new charge of escaping from electronic monitoring.
“You didn’t just go for a walk, you went to the one place you specifically can’t go ... O’Hare Airport,” Judge David Navarro said before ordering her held in lieu of $100,000 bail on the escape charge.
She would need to pay $10,000 to leave custody pending trial. However, the arrest also violated her bail and probation on previous cases, meaning she will be held without bail until at least Monday, when she can go before the judge handling those matters.
Thursday’s hearing featured the same push and pull that has been the hallmark of Hartman’s court dates: prosecutors saying she is a habitual offender who has repeatedly breached airport security while trying to sneak onto flights, and defense lawyers pointing out she is a senior citizen with serious mental health issues whose actions have never been inherently violent.
Hartman’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Andrea Lubelfeld, said Hartman had previously been in full compliance with the conditions of her bail, which includes restrictions on her movement from a West Side residential facility and an electronic ankle monitor.
But Hartman was extremely upset after viewing a TV news interview with her, Lubelfeld said. Hartman contends she did not give permission for the interview to be broadcast, Lubelfeld said, and after watching it Sunday she was so upset she missed a therapy appointment Monday morning and the next day headed to O’Hare for the first time in more than a year.
“She has a mental illness that was triggered by something out of her control, and she reacted not, perhaps, in making the best choice,” Lubelfeld said. “But I would say her mental illness affects her ability to make choices.”
The interview aired this week on WBBM-Ch. 2. The station tweeted Thursday after the court hearing, “We have her on tape agreeing to do the interviews and record them.”
Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said he was “not unsympathetic” to Hartman’s condition, but urged the judge to treat her the same way as others who repeatedly come through the docket charged with escape.
And while her actions may not be inherently violent, they do present a safety risk, Murphy said.
“This was and continues to be a huge, major security breach she participates in,” he said. “At some point (if) she continues to be where she shouldn’t be, she’s going to touch something she shouldn’t touch and somebody’s going to be hurt.”
Murphy said that authorities got an alert from Hartman’s GPS device on Tuesday morning that she had left the facility; they tried to communicate through the ankle bracelet and call her cellphone but she did not respond.
Officials tracked her GPS to O’Hare and alerted the Chicago Police Department. Officers found her in the Blue Line station when sheriff’s officials activated the siren on her bracelet, and she was taken into custody.
After her arrest, Hartman told officers she had left without permission because she was “depressed,” Murphy said.
The arrest came two weeks after a court hearing in which Hartman’s attorneys and prosecutors said they had reached the plea deal on her pending case: 18 months of probation, plus court-ordered mental health treatment.
Formal plea proceedings had not begun, but Judge Peggy Chiampas preemptively put attorneys on notice that she was not inclined to agree to that sentence. Hartman’s 2019 arrest at O’Hare violated the terms of her probation for a 2018 trespassing case. Chiampas balked at giving another probation to someone who had previously violated.
Nevertheless, Hartman’s attorney expressed hope that Chiampas would change her mind once she learned the complete facts of the case. A prison sentence, even a negligible one, would interrupt Hartman’s mental health treatment.
Hartman, who has a long history of trying to sneak onto flights in Chicago and around the country, was arrested at O’Hare in October 2019 just as she was trying to pass the second of two security checkpoints, prosecutors have said.
She spent time in Cook County Jail before being released about a year ago in an effort to release low-risk detainees in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. She was put on a county electronic monitoring program and placed at a West Side facility that provides supportive and transitional housing.