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Video: Arrested for overdue books

TODAY contributor
updated 8/25/2008 11:22:47 AM ET 2008-08-25T15:22:47

Pay your library fines — or you could wind up like Heidi Dalibor.

The 20-year-old Wisconsin woman was recently arrested and “booked” for failing to pay hers.

“I’m taking full responsibility for it,” Dalibor said exclusively to TODAY’s Al Roker and Natalie Morales. “It was my fault. I didn’t pay and I didn’t respond.

“I took care of it and paid the consequences. So now all I can do is laugh about it.”

But it didn’t seem funny the morning she wound up in cuffs in the back of a police car. “I was shocked,” Dalibor said.

The story unfolds
The Grafton Library had sent two notices and made two phone calls to Dalibor to retrieve the two books she had taken out. Dalibor simply failed to respond.

So the library turned the case over to local police, who notified Dalibor by mail that she would either have to pay a $171 fine or appear in court. Dalibor said she intended to go to court, but got stuck at work. She said she went to the police station after work to plead her case, but was told there was nothing she or the police could do.

So, on Aug. 6, Dalibor woke up to find a police officer walking around the side of her house and into the backyard. At the front door was another officer bearing a warrant for her arrest.

Even worse, Dalibor's mother was home that day, and she had her suspicions about who the authorities were looking for. “When police came to the door, I looked and thought, ‘OK, three teenagers at home. It could be [anything], but family tendencies are probably leaning toward Heidi,’ ” Patty Dalibor told Roker and Morales on TODAY.

Morales and Roker laughed at that, but Heidi ... not so much. Still, she was able to see some grim humor in the situation. “They presented a warrant and they were kind of half-smiling like, ‘We’re going to have to take you in for your library fines,’ ” she recalled.

Dalibor was cuffed, stuffed into the waiting police car, and driven through the neighborhood where she had often worked as a baby sitter. Once in custody, she was fingerprinted and photographed for her mug shot. “I was laughing when I took the picture,” she recalled — but it was mainly from shock and disorientation, not from seeing anything funny about her plight.

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Dalibor admitted she found the situation “a little extreme,” but credited the police for their professionalism and placed the blame solely on herself. She also wanted to clear up the notion that her mother paid her fine. The money, she said, came from her own account — even if her mother did bring it to the police station.

Patty Dalibor explained that Heidi had chosen “not to put on shoes, so she went barefoot. She couldn’t bring her purse. She didn’t have any money. Somebody had to go, so I took her money and I went and paid the fine. It was her money — and everyone is saying, ‘Her mom went and paid.’ ”

Whoever the money came from, it was a good thing for Heidi Dalibor that her mother came and paid it. One of her younger sisters suggested that Heidi could just stay in the pokey a little while.

“We were supposed to go shopping,” Patty Dalibor explained. “So she said, ‘Let’s go shopping, leave her in there and let her think about what she’s done.’ ”

But Dalibor’s tragicomic literary adventure has a bit of a surprise ending: She still has the books. “At this point, I’ve paid for them — and then some,” she explained.

She has thought of auctioning the notorious narratives on eBay and donating the proceeds to the library — but she also says she probably won’t borrow books from that library anymore.

All told, the sad chapter in her life cost Dalibor $201: $30 for the overdue books, and $171 for the fines.

Incidentally, the two paperbacks Dalibor took out — “Angels and Demons,” a mystery novel by Dan Brown, and “White Oleander,” a 1999 novel by Janet Finch — can be bought new from Amazon.com for a total of $21.18 — or $4.41 used.

But though Dalibor is $201 poorer, she is enriched in at least one way. “I did read the books,” she pointed out. “They were good books.”

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