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Southwest stowaway pleads no contest; must stay away from LAX

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Southwest stowaway pleads no contest to sneaking on plane without ticket; must stay away from LAX

A 62-year-old woman pleaded no contest Wednesday to sneaking onto a Southwest Airlines jet without a ticket in San Jose and later landing in Los Angeles, officials said.

Marilyn Hartman, who was charged with a misdemeanor count of entering the city as a stowaway, was ordered to serve 24 months of summary probation, according to Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office.

She also must stay away from Los Angeles International Airport unless she has a valid ticket to fly, he said. She was ordered to serve three days in jail, which Mateljan said amounted to credit for time served.

Hartman was banned from San Francisco International Airport earlier this year after reportedly making at least three attempts to board without a ticket but was caught each time before the plane departed.

The San Jose incident Monday may be the first time that Hartman achieved success and made it off the tarmac, but authorities stressed that at no point did she pose a threat to public safety.

Instead, officials in San Mateo told a Bay Area news station that her repeated stowaway attempts may just be a sign of loneliness.

In April, after her sixth visit to the San Francisco airport, San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe told the SF Weekly that Hartman strikes him “as a very lonely person” and speculated that she may just like being around people.

Hartman somehow got past the boarding pass checkpoint Monday at Mineta San Jose International Airport before passengers go through Transportation Security Administration screening, authorities said. She then allegedly went through the TSA screening like everyone else.

From there, she allegedly got onto Southwest Flight 3785 that departed San Jose about 7:15 p.m. and, about an hour later, landed at LAX, where she was arrested after Southwest employees conducted a passenger count and realized that she was not supposed to be on the flight.

In a statement to The Times on Wednesday, Southwest Airlines said it was “actively investigating” the breach.

“Our No. 1 priority remains the safety and security of our customers and employees," the airline said.

The airline declined to release more details about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation, but it did acknowledge that its employees are the final barrier before a person boards a plane.

According to the TSA, Hartman was screened along with the rest of the airport’s passengers "to ensure that she was not a security threat to the aircraft."

An official with the agency told The Times the woman managed to sneak past the initial boarding pass checkpoint when a TSA agent was distracted.

San Jose airport officials said in a statement that its security check processes were not a factor in the breach and that public safety was “never compromised.”

After an initial review, the TSA said it has initiated "minor modifications to the layout of the document checking area."

Southwest could face regulatory fines in connection with Monday’s incident, a TSA official said.

Hartman was arrested at LAX on suspicion of trespassing and was jailed in lieu of $500 bail, officials said.

For breaking California news, and follow @VeronicaRochaLA and @JosephSerna. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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