A woman described as a "serial stowaway" and a "high security risk" has a court date in Chicago Thursday morning.
But as has been the case across the United States, Marilyn Hartman faces only misdemeanor charges, raising questions about whether she will be released to repeat the dubious behavior she has practiced at airports in at least half a dozen American cities.
The 63-year-old Hartman has been arrested three times in the last two weeks, attempting to board aircraft at O’Hare and Midway airports, incident reports show. She made another attempt on April 19, an incident for which she received only a warning.
At least three times, Hartman appears to have been successful in her attempts. In February of last year, she made it all the way onto an aircraft bound from San Francisco to Honolulu. Last August 4, she stowed away on a flight from San Jose to Los Angeles. After her release from jail, she was ordered to stay away from the Los Angeles airport, but was arrested there the very next day. Sentenced to 117 days in jail, Hartman was released after just a few days in custody because of jail overcrowding.
In January, she was discovered in a vacant hotel room at the posh Amelia Island resort, where she told police that she had just arrived after slipping onto a flight from Minneapolis to Jacksonville. Wary of her movements, airport police noticed her roaming the Jacksonville airport again on April 14. But this time, Hartman insisted she was flying legally to Chicago. A police report shows that airport personnel walked her to the American Airlines ticket counter where they watched her purchase a ticket to Chicago. That report shows they then walked her through the TSA process because she had no photo ID and made sure she boarded the Chicago-bound flight.
But a Chicago police source said no one from Jacksonville ever notified them she was headed here.
Last August, Hartman was arrested at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, telling reporters that even she was shocked at the seeming ease which which she had been able to board airplanes unnoticed.
"Why has the government allowed me to get past security points until I forced the issue back in February?" she asked, "and pretty much had to beg to be arrested."
But how does she do it? Investigators said that in the San Jose case, Hartman managed to slip past the TSA officer examining ID’s and boarding passes by slipping past while a larger group was being checked. After that, she passed through the metal detector unhindered. It wasn’t clear how she was able to actually board the aircraft.
"The individual was screened along with other passengers to ensure that she was not a security threat to the aircraft," said TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy. "Following an initial review by TSA at San Jose International Airport, the agency has initiated minor modifications to the layout of the document checking area, to prevent another incident like this one."
McCarthy said the agency had been unable to substantiate Hartman’s story that she pulled a similar ruse on the flight from Minnesota to Florida on February 8, but police in Jacksonville clearly believed her.
Hartman, who has claimed she has an unrecognized illness called "whistleblower trauma syndrome," has previously said she was forced by the FBI to flee her house, rendering her homeless. Authorities tried to get her help at a San Mateo County treatment center in the Bay Area, but checked herself out of that facility after just two days.