Bonnie Sweeten, the Pennsylvania woman accused of faking her own abduction and fleeing to Florida with her daughter, was released from Bucks County Jail today after she posted $100,000 in cash, 10 percent of the $1 million bail a judge ordered.
The judge set the bail Friday evening at Sweeten's preliminary arraignment in Richboro, Pa., on misdemeanor identity theft and false reporting charges, after her arrest at an Orlando, Fla., hotel room following a visit to Disney World on Wednesday.
A Philadelphia-area judge said he set the bail because he considered Sweeten, 38, a flight risk. The judge also ordered that Sweeten's visits with her three children be supervised.
Sweeten's attorney said she is not a flight risk.
"She wasn't under house arrest," defense attorney Louis Busico said. "She went on a plane with her child to the most popular vacation destination in the country. It's not a flight risk."
The bail was unusually high for someone facing misdemeanor charges, but the prosecutor said the circumstances of the case warranted it.
"Although it's only misdemeanors," Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry said, "the bottom line [is that] her 911 call spurred on a nationwide law enforcement manhunt."
Authorities allege Sweeten called 911 Tuesday and falsely claimed she and her daughter, Julia Rakoczy, 9, were carjacked after a minor traffic accident in Upper Southampton Township, Pa., and stuffed into a car trunk.
But as officials followed up on the alleged emergency in Bucks County, Pa., they believe Sweeten actually was traveling with her daughter to Disney World under the name of a former co-worker. Police claim Sweeten drained several bank accounts and took the former co-worker's driver's license before boarding an Orlando-bound flight.
Sweeten waived her extradition rights at a hearing in Orlando Friday morning and agreed to face charges in Pennsylvania.
Friday's hearing was a preliminary arraignment. Sweeten's formal arraignment is expected to come within a month or two and will be heard by a common pleas judge in Doylestown, Pa.
Sweeten's husband, Larry Sweeten, said he is wondering if his wife's erratic behavior can be traced to fertility treatments she has been receiving.
He said his wife has been emotional since receiving in-vitro fertilization treatment. The treatment led to the birth of Sweeten's now 8-month-old baby.
"I know when you do in-vitro, you take hormone shots and it messes with her, messed with her extremely," Sweeten said Thursday.
But fertility experts say the chances are slim that the fertility treatments that Bonnie Sweeten likely received roughly 17 months ago, given the age of her child, had anything to do with her actions.
"I am not familiar with any psychosis associated with IVF treatment," said Dr. William Gibbons, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He added that though he could not say conclusively that such a connection would be impossible, the link "would seem to be a reach" as after 17 months "the effects of the IVF should be long gone."