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Throwing the Book at Overdue Book Offender

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lori Teel said she can’t remember checking out a “Twilight” book and movie from the Portales Public Library, but she’s not likely to forget her overnight stay in jail for failing to return them.

Teel was arrested and handcuffed at her Portales home in front of her five small children earlier this month because of $35.98 worth of library materials allegedly taken out and not returned, according to a tort claim notice sent to the Portales city clerk on Monday.

The overdue library fine led to a summons for Teel to appear in Portales Municipal Court, according to the claim. A municipal court judge issued warrants for Teel’s arrest last year after she failed to appear in court, but the summons and warrants were mailed to an address at which Teel hadn’t lived since childhood, and she never received any notices, she and her attorney say.

Teel was arrested June 12 by officers investigating a disturbance, according to her attorney, Eric Dixon of Portales. Teel said officers arrived at Teal’s home that evening in response to allegations that her husband had assaulted someone.

While there, officers realized there was a warrant for her arrest.

“Honestly, it was awful,” Teel said of the arrest and her night in the Roosevelt County Detention Center. “For me, it was very awful because I have never been in trouble for anything in my life.”

Her children, ages 1 to 10, stayed in a neighbor’s home until Teel was released the following morning on $610 bond.

“My kids are still very emotional,” Teel said. “They had to stay with a complete stranger. My 3-year-old is traumatized over it. She will not leave my side.”

Dixon sent letters to Portales and Roosevelt County officials on Tuesday alerting them that Teel plans to file legal action for the arrest.

Court records show that her husband, Jimmy Teel, was arrested June 12 on charges of aggravated battery and tampering with evidence. Lori Teel said she didn’t know details about the alleged crime.

Portales City Attorney Stephen Doerr dismissed charges against Lori Teel on Monday, Municipal Court records show.

Messages left for Doerr and City Manager Tom Howell on Wednesday were not returned.

Library records show that Lori Teel checked out “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” a two-DVD set, and “Twilight,” a novel by Stephenie Meyer, with a due date of Oct. 5, 2010.

A summons was issued in March 2011, ordering Teel to appear in Municipal Court in response to the outstanding library fines, court records show.

A judge subsequently issued two warrants for Teel’s arrest in April and May last year, but the summons and warrants were returned to the court as undeliverable, Dixon said.

The mail was sent to the address of a children’s home in Portales, where Teel had lived as a child, Dixon said. Teel has lived at her current address for at least a year, he said.

“Ms. Teel and her small children have been traumatized, humiliated, embarrassed, subject to ridicule, and otherwise suffered pain and suffering and other damages as a result of the wrongful arrest,” the claim says.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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