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Manhunt suspect pleads guilty on escape charge

January 4, 2012

A convicted sex offender who escaped from a prison transport van in eastern Barnes County in October 2011 changed his plea to "guilty" in Barnes County District Court Wednesday morning.

Joseph Matthew Megna, 30, was being transported from Florida to Washington state after being arrested on a warrant out of Franklin County, Wash. Megna fled the unlocked Extradition Transport of America van at the I-94 rest stop between Tower City and Oriska on Oct. 4, and was apprehended the next afternoon following a 22-hour manhunt.

Megna was charged with escape, a class C felony that carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. He initially pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, but elected to change his plea in late December.

District Judge John T. Judge Paulson accepted Megna's guilty plea Wednesday, and ordered that his three months served in the Barnes County Correctional Center be credited onto any possible conviction in Washington. Megna's court fees were also waived, as he is considered an indigent defendant.

Megna was originally picked up in Florida on a warrant for felony child molestation out of Pasco, Wash., and will be returned to Franklin County for arraignment on that charge, as was intended before his escape attempt in October.

Megna was convicted in Washington in 2009 on two counts of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.

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