Bonnie Sweeten's life is getting back to normal, her attorney said yesterday.
If so, it is a decidedly new normal for the Bucks County mother whose elaborate kidnapping hoax last month created a national media frenzy.
"She's being a full-time mom of three kids," attorney Louis Busico said after Sweeten, 38, waived her preliminary hearing on charges of identity theft and filing false reports. "She's in the area, she's with her children. . . . Everyone's getting along. There is no discord in that family."
Then again, most full-time moms are not free on $1 million bail, or on supervision whenever around their kids.
Nor do most moms have their mug shots broadcast on national news shows, or face allegations of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"An investigation is being conducted," Busico said after Sweeten's brief appearance in Magisterial District Court in Richboro. "I guess we'll have to wait and see."
For now, the Feasterville woman is scheduled for a formal arraignment July 24 in Bucks County Court on misdemeanor charges of identity theft and filing a false report.
District Attorney Michelle Henry, who attended yesterday's session, would say only that the probe into Sweeten's activities was continuing.
On May 26, a frantic-sounding Sweeten called 911, claiming that she and her 9-year-old daughter had been abducted by two black men along Street Road in Lower Bucks County in the middle of the afternoon. Authorities, though skeptical of the story, broadcast an Amber Alert notice that repeated Sweeten's claims and sparked network-TV coverage.
The interest intensified the next day, when Sweeten's hoax was revealed, and she and her daughter turned up at a plush hotel at Walt Disney World in Florida. Sweeten is accused of using a former coworker's identification to buy a plane ticket for the flight from Philadelphia.
"It's really hard to speculate and make sense of a senseless act," Busico said yesterday. "I can't tell you what her state of mind was at that moment, other than she was a woman falling apart."
Busico said waiving yesterday's hearing - conceding that prosecutors had enough evidence to bring the charges to trial - was in Sweeten's best interests.
"There is no point in rehashing what she has already been through," he said. "She is emotionally distraught [and] there is no point in adding more pressure to it."
Busico said Sweeten has returned to the area and has resumed her parenting duties but, as a condition of bail, must have another adult with her when seeing her children.
Her mental-health treatment is ongoing, Busico said, but he declined to elaborate on its nature or specify where she has been living.
Sweeten, looking tense but composed, said little at the hearing before District Judge William Benz. Accompanied by her husband, Larry, and her father, William Siner, she did not respond to reporters' questions outside the court.
Still under investigation are allegations that Sweeten stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from relatives and from a law firm where she worked many years as a paralegal.
Sweeten's former employer, attorney Debbie Carlitz, closed her office last year after her law license was temporarily suspended. She has said that Sweeten, a trusted employee, stole from her.
Documents filed this month in Bucks County Court show that Carlitz used Sweeten's home address last year when taking out a $100,000 mortgage loan for Carlitz's former practice on Bustleton Avenue.
A lawyer for the lender said yesterday that Gelt Financial Corp. was seeking a $114,490.61 judgment against Carlitz for failing to make payments. The attorney, Axel A. Shield, said he did not know whether the missed payments had anything to do with the allegations against Sweeten.
Shield said court papers seeking to recover the debt by seizing the site of Carlitz's former law firm were expected to be filed soon.
Ellen C. Brotman, an attorney representing Carlitz, said she was not aware of the loan default and could not comment on specifics of the investigation into Sweeten.
Brotman said that Carlitz "has been fully and actively cooperating with law enforcement and appreciates all of the efforts to investigate the full scope of Ms. Sweeten's activities."