‘Serial Stowaway’ Pleads Guilty in Latest Felony Cases

March 3, 2022

Nearly a year after her most recent attempt to go to O’Hare International Airport, the woman known as the “serial stowaway” pleaded guilty in two felony cases Thursday.

Marilyn Hartman was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a 2019 criminal trespass at O’Hare and two years in prison for leaving her electronic monitoring host site to head for the airport last year.

However, given the lengthy time she spent awaiting trial on an ankle bracelet and in Cook County Jail, she will be eligible for release from custody nearly as soon as she is booked.

Serial stowaway: 22 airport incidents involving Marilyn Hartman »

“I have struggled with depression and medication management all of my life, I have experienced homelessness,” Hartman told Judge Peggy Chiampas in court Thursday. “Despite the setbacks, therapy provided an excellent vehicle to examine underlying issues that led me to breaking the law.”

Hartman’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Parle Roe-Taylor, told the Tribune after court that while Hartman has enough credit to be eligible for release almost immediately, it is unclear when she would be processed out, given the uncertainty around some of the Illinois Department of Corrections’ procedures in the COVID-19 era.

Hartman does not have a place to return to, meaning IDOC will be responsible for finding her a place to live upon release. Chiampas has requested that they find her a place that provides appropriate mental health services, Roe-Taylor said.

“I think that the criminal justice system is not equipped to deal with people like Ms. Hartman,” Roe-Taylor said. “This is a difficult situation, you know that she is 70 years old, she is nonviolent ... I hope that people can see that as an opportunity that she needs to restart her life.”

Hartman got the “serial stowaway” moniker after gaining national notoriety for attempting to sneak into airports and onto flights around the country. Perhaps the most serious recent case came in January 2018, when she boarded a jet and flew to London’s Heathrow Airport without a ticket.

She was on probation for that case in 2019 when she tried to pass an O’Hare security checkpoint without identification or travel documents, prosecutors said.

She was in custody awaiting trial on the 2019 case but released in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns at the jail. She stayed at A Safe Haven, a residential facility, and had not made any attempts to go to an airport until March 2021, when her pretrial ankle monitor tracked her to the O’Hare CTA Blue Line station.

In court Thursday, Hartman echoed a claim made by one of her attorneys last year: that her relapse was triggered when WBBM-Ch.-2 aired their interview with her without her knowledge.

Reached by phone Thursday, the anchor whose interview with Hartman aired just before her trip to O’Hare declined to be quoted, but pointed to the station’s comments last year that Hartman’s consent to be interviewed and recorded was on tape.

Hartman was on the brink of another plea deal a year ago, before her most recent arrest. Prosecutors had agreed to recommend a sentence of probation, but Chiampas said she would not agree to any deal that didn’t include jail time.

A few months later, her attorney tried to get her into Cook County’s mental health court program, which would mean she would avoid prison time, but Hartman was not admitted into that program.

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