Over the protests of the Cook County Sheriff’s office, a Cook County Judge agreed to release “serial stowaway” Marilyn Hartman from custody Thursday, based largely on her promises not to return to either O’Hare and Midway airports.
At the same time, officials are looking at O'Hare security, in an effort to prevent another similar breach.
The 66-year-old Hartman, who had been living in Lake County, evaded security at O’Hare last week and managed to fly all the way to London on a British Airways jetliner. She was denied entry to Great Britain, and returned to Chicago where she was arrested upon her arrival. She did not comment after her release Thursday night.
In a statement, the Transportation Security Administration said they are taking the Hartman case "very seriously".
"As a result, we know that the individual was screened at our checkpoint," the statement said. "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.”
A source close to the investigation told NBC 5 that already at O'Hare, efforts have been made to modify checkpoint and stanchion design, and that they looking at longer term modifications in other security procedures.
That source also said efforts are being made to stress the need for airlines to enforce their own boarding and shuttle bus procedures. Police said Hartman evaded a security checkpoint in Terminal 3, then took a supposedly secure shuttle bus to Terminal 5, where she eventually boarded the British Airways flight without a ticket.
Earlier this week, Sheriff Tom Dart’s office had written both the State’s Attorney and Public Defender’s office, opposing Hartman’s release on electronic monitoring. But in court, even that requirement was dropped. Judge Donald Panarese reduced her $25,000 bond to $10,000, and after learning that it would be impossible for the Sheriff to electronically monitor Hartman in Lake County, made no requirements for her monitoring.
“Her last conviction was two years ago?” Panarese asked. “And no arrests in the last two years at the airport?”
When informed that was the case, the judge turned to Hartman.
“You’ve stayed away from the airport for two years?” he asked. “Can you stay away? Jail’s not so fun, is it?”
When Hartman gave her assurances, Panarese seemed satisfied.
“And you have to stay away from the airport,” he warned.
Hartman’s public defender, Parle Roe-Taylor, who she said she once fired during previous encounters with the law, expressed confidence that Hartman would abide by the judge’s warnings.
“My client wants to go home,” she said. “I made the request on her behalf. She’s not had an arrest in two years---over two years at this point.”
But the sheriff's office expressed shock at the judge’s decision.
“Releasing any seriously mentally ill person without support and treatment is never a good idea,” said Cara Smith, the sheriff’s policy chief. “This order seriously reflects many things wrong with the criminal justice system.”
The public defender’s office made no move in court to ask for any kind of intervention. But Smith suggested Hartman’s past behavior cries out for very specialized treatment.
“We have a woman who is obviously suffering and in need of significant services,” she said. “Without the help she clearly needs, history is likely to repeat itself.”
Indeed, Smith wrote officials Thursday morning before court, urging caution in Hartman’s case.
“We urge a more appropriate bond order for her,” she wrote. “She is in great need of long term care. We'd like to be part of crafting a global plan for her and stand ready to assist in any way.”
But that plea fell on deaf ears. Hartman’s next court date is set for Feb. 13.