TECUMSEH, Mich. (AP) — A judge told a Michigan couple they could land in jail for up to 93 days and face a maximum $500 fine for failing to return a novel and a Dr. Seuss book borrowed from the local public library.
Cathy and Melvin Duren of Tecumseh, Michigan, appeared in Lenawee County court on Thursday to each face a misdemeanor charge of failure to return rental property. They owe about $35 in late fees for "The Rome Prophecy," borrowed in April 2015. They lost a Dr. Seuss book their teenage son borrowed for their granddaughter in July 2014.
"I can't imagine going to jail over it, but I certainly will fight these charges because I'm not guilty," Cathy Duren said.
Although the couple admitted they were negligent in returning the books, they think it's unfair to each be charged a $105 "diversion fee" to the Lenawee County Economic Crimes Unit in addition to fines owed to the Tecumseh Public Library, WXYZ-TV reported.
In December, the Durens received a letter advising them to return the books and pay the fees, as well as the replacement costs if they couldn't find the books. The letter also informed them that they could be charged with a crime.
In January, the couple was able to find and return "The Rome Prophecy," but they couldn't locate the Dr. Seuss book. The title of the book wasn't known.
Cathy Duren sent a $55 money order to the prosecutor's office to cover the late fees and replacement costs for the lost book. But Cathy Duren said her money order was refused because she and her husband declined to pay the additional $210 in diversion fees to the Lenawee County prosecutor's crime unit.
Cathy Duren said she feels that she's being extorted by the prosecutor's office.
The Durens had to pay $100 bond to avoid going to jail last Friday when they were served with arrest warrants.
The couple said they probably will never check out a library book again.