The Barnes County Sheriff's Department and local farmers who participated in the 2011 capture of an escaped prisoner from an area corn field will be reimbursed for their efforts.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced in a press release Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement with Extradition Transport of America, LLC, a private prisoner transport company, for reimbursement of about $70,000 to state, federal and local law enforcement authorities for expenses relating to re-capturing Joseph M. Megna. Local law enforcement that should collect reimbursement include the Barnes County Sheriff's Department and the Valley City Police Department. In addition, local farmers who aided in the search will also be reimbursed.
On Oct. 4, 2011, ETA employees were transporting Megna and six other prisoners through North Dakota in a van, according to the press release. Megna, who was a registered sex offender with prior convictions in Washington, was being taken from Florida to Washington to face a felony charge of child molestation. Six of the seven prisoners in the van, including Megna, were considered violent prisoners.
During the transport, the ETA employees stopped at the Oriska rest area to allow the prisoners a restroom break.
"Megna later told authorities that he used a bobby pin he found on the floor of the van to pick the locks on his handcuffs, waist chain and leg irons," said the release.
Besides not noticing that Megna was no longer restrained, Megna and another prisoner were left alone and unsupervised with the van door unlocked. Megna escaped the van and fled into a cornfield north of I-94.
During the 22-hour search, about 60 officers from 14 state, federal and local agencies searched for the escapee using aircraft and other specialized equipment.
Megna was eventually captured after Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClafflin suggest using combines to harvest the corn and flush him out.
The basis for the lawsuit was Jenna's Act which was enacted in response to the escape of Kyle Bell who was being transported between facilities by a private prisoner transport company. Bell had sexually assaulted and murdered and 11-year-old, Jenna North, in Fargo. He was captured in Texas three months later.
In addition to reimbursement for the manhunt in Barnes County, ETA will also pay a a $10,000 civil penalty which is the maximum penalty allowed under Jenna's Act.
Read this story in Tuesday's Times-Record.