Couple facing jail over two library books

Posted at 6:41 PM, Apr 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-11 18:41:58-04

Cathy and Melvin Duren kept forgetting about two books they checked out of the Tecumseh Public Library and failed to return.

Now, the Durens are facing jail time after the Lenawee County Prosecutor charged each of them with Failure to Return Rental Property. The couple thinks it's unfair that they never would have been charged with the misdemeanors, if they had just paid a diversion fee to the Lenawee County Economic Crimes Unit.

The couple's teenage son used Cathy's library card to check out a Dr. Seuss book in July 2014. It was for their granddaughter to read during a visit, but the book was lost.

Then, in April 2015, Cathy used her husband's library card to rent The Rome Prophecy.

In December, the Durens got the last demand letter from the library that advised them to return the two books and pay the fees and replacement costs if they could not locate the books. The letter also advised them that they could be charged with a crime.

In January, they returned The Rome Prophecy, but they couldn't find the Dr. Seuss book.

The Durens have offered to pay the late fees for both books and the cost to replace the lost book, but now the Economic Crimes Unit of the Lenawee County Prosecutor's Office was involved.

The unit's Det. Robert Kellogg left multiple messages on the couple's voicemail.

Cathy and Melvin describe the tone of the phone calls as bully-like.

Det. Kellogg tells the couple that, in addition to the library's costs, they must each now pay a $105 diversion fee to avoid prosecution.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office says the Economic Crimes Unit also investigates other crimes, including bad checks and retail fraud.

The diversion fees are used to help fund the unit.

"It's extortion," says Cathy Duren, who says her money order to cover fines and the replacement cost of the lost book was refused because she and her husband declined to pay the additional $210 in diversion fees to the prosecutor's crime unit.

A police officer arrived at the couple's home on Friday to serve the arrest warrants. They each had to pay a $100 bond to avoid going to jail.

They're due in court within ten days.