Marilyn Hartman, the Bay Area woman accused of making it through airport security without a boarding pass, told reporters outside a Los Angeles courthouse Wednesday that she regretted her actions.
Hartman, who authorities say took a Southwest Airlines flight from San Jose to Los Angeles pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor trespassing charge after being arrested at LAX two nights earlier.
Hartman, 62, was charged in connection with willfully and unlawfully entering Los Angeles as a stowaway on an aircraft, a misdemeanor, according to the LA City Attorney's Office. She was ordered to 24 months on probation and three days in jail.
"It is by no means an adventure or anything because I could have gotten in much more trouble," she said, acknowledging that homelessness was partly what drove her to do it. "I am an American foremost and I believe very strongly in the security of this country, so in that regard, it was very stupid."
Hartman added she wants to make sure that American airports are secure.
"Obviously they will be on the watch again so I dare not attempt this again," she said, adding that security at the SJC airport is excellent, despite the security breach.
When reporters asked how she was able to get past security, Hartman said she couldn't say because it would encourage criminal activity.
"Really, I found myself more in a desperate situation than in a criminal act - though it is a criminal act," she said. "...I took desperate actions ... I am a student of the sixties where they had sit-ins and I view this more as a sit-in at the airport to make a point that got out of control."
Hartman refrained from saying what other issue besides homelessness she was trying to draw attention to, citing legal restrictions on what she was allowed to say in public. She told reporters she is a Chicago native. But for at least the last decade or so, she has been homeless in parts of the Bay Area, including San Francisco. The Mercury News reported she left her Tenderloin motel room in late February, after living in Seattle, San Diego and Maui for short stints. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe added that county workers had tried unsuccessfully to get her some mental health treatment.
"I have $4 and 45 cents," she told reporters, adding that she wasn't sure where she was going next. "I think I've been on enough programs that people might recognize me and give me a dollar." She said that she might get help at a shelter but didn't offer any details.
Hartman was also ordered to "stay away from LAX" unless she has a ticket to board a flight, officials said. Her attorney said she is homeless.
For her own safety, the judge implored Hartman to avoid LAX, saying she could have caused a panic or been shot.
Hartman allegedly bypassed a document checker after a few failed attempts at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Monday night and boarded Southwest Airlines Flight 3785 to LAX. NBC Bay Area was the first to report the security lapse.
Southwest flight crews noticed the Bay Area resident after doing a head count when the plane landed in Los Angeles, officials said.
Hartman has previously breached security at San Francisco International Airport and has a history of trying to get on flights without a ticket, officials said. She had at least seven encounters with police at SFO and was arrested four times, according to the San Mateo County district attorney's office.
Wagstaffe told NBC Bay Area that she tried to sneak onto planes at SFO on Feb. 15, 18 and 20. The remaining four arrests, he said, were for violating her court order and trespassing at the airport. In those last cases, Wagstaffe said she was "simply found sitting outside the security in places, like the food court."
The flight to LAX caught the attention of a US congressman who sits on a Homeland Security committee.
"This can't happen," said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California. "We're fortunate this woman was harmless. But we might not be so fortunate in the future."
San Jose Airport officials said Tuesday the incident was not a security issue because the woman was screened by the TSA.
"She was screened for prohibited items," said Mineta San Jose International Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes. "This was not a security breach."
The TSA issued a statement and said the woman was not a threat.
"The individual was screened along with all other passengers to ensure that she was not a security threat to the aircraft. 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," the statement read.
Southwest Airlines officials said they also opened an investigation into what happened.
Tony Kovaleski, Conan Nolan and NBC Bay Area staff contributed to this report.