A Tecumseh, Michigan, couple are facing jail time for two overdue library books.
Cathy and Melvin Duren are each charged with larceny of rental equipment, ABC News reports. The charges stem from two separate books they borrowed from the Tecumseh Public Libraryone; one was returned, the other lost.
In July 2014, the couple’s teenage son used Cathy’s library card to borrow a Dr. Seuss book for their granddaughter to read while she was visiting the family, according to WXYZ.
The book was lost and their son, who was a minor at the time, received overdue notices from the library via email, but never told his parents, Cathy told ABC News.
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It wasn’t until Oct. 2014 that Cathy was notified directly by the library of the unpaid late charges.
“We had no intent of not paying the fees,” Cathy said.
In April 2015, Cathy used Melvin’s library card to check out “The Rome Prophecy,” but failed to return the book on time to the library.
She went to the library in May 2015 after receiving another letter and was told she would receive a reconciliation of the late charges in the mail. She gave the library $10 towards the late fee that day.
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The couple received a demand letter from the library in December 2015 alerting them to return the two books and pay $55 in late fees or replace the books if they were lost.
They were also notified by the Economic Crimes Unit of the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office, which handles crimes associated with the intent to steal, that they would be prosecuted for larceny of rental equipment if they did not pay the fees.
Due to a financial hardship, the couple was unable to do so at that time.
In February, Cathy met with the unit’s detective Robert Kellogg to settle the matter, but he told her that there was a $105 “diversion fee” for each book required and would not accept the late payment and replacement fees.
“He refused to take my money, because I had to pay the diversion fee first,” Cathy said.
The library refused to accept payment from Cathy, too, because Kellogg allegedly told them not to. He also reportedly left the couple “threatening” messages and accused them of circumventing the law after Cathy tried to send the payment via a money order through certified mail.
“He was so rude to me,” Cathy recalled. “He treated me like a criminal.”
A police officer arrived at the Duren's home on April 8 to serve their arrest warrants. To avoid going to jail, they each had to pay a $100 bond.
They paid the bond and appeared in court on April 14, where they pleaded not guilty to larceny of rental equipment.
“We were appalled, totally appalled,” Cathy said of the charges against them. “We didn’t commit a crime.”
According to authorities, if found guilty, the couple could serve up to 93 days in jail and have to pay a $500 fine.