Transport company must pay expenses in North Dakota escapeFARGO, N.D. (AP) — A settlement agreement filed Monday in federal court requires a prisoner transport company to pay $70,000 to law enforcement agencies and farmers who helped capture an escaped convict hiding out in a southeastern North Dakota cornfield.
By: DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press, Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A settlement agreement filed Monday in federal court requires a prisoner transport company to pay $70,000 to law enforcement agencies and farmers who helped capture an escaped convict hiding out in a southeastern North Dakota cornfield.
The government had filed the complaint against Extradition Transport of America, which was bringing Joseph Megna from Florida to Washington state in October 2011 when he escaped from a rest stop on Interstate 94. Megna was a registered sex offender facing a child molestation charge.
Area farmers used combines to mow down 100 acres of corn and help flush Megna from the field.
"These folks were instrumental in apprehending Megna without any further delays," Barnes County Sheriff McClaflin said Monday in a statement issued by federal prosecutors.
The transport van had stopped at rest area near Oriska in Barnes County on the night of Oct. 4, 2011, to allow the prisoners to use the restroom. Megna later told authorities that he used a bobby pin found on the floor of the van to pick the locks on his handcuffs, waist chain and leg irons.
About 60 law enforcement personnel from 14 state, federal, and local agencies spent 22 hours searching for Megna, using aircraft and other specialized equipment.
The settlement calls for the transport company to pay a $10,000 fine, the maximum penalty allowed under a 2000 federal law passed following an inmate's escape. Kyle Bell — an inmate convicted of murdering an 11-year-old Jeanna North of Fargo in 1993 — escaped in New Mexico and was a fugitive for three months.
"This groundbreaking lawsuit should send a clear message to the prisoner transport industry: Follow the rules and keep the dangerous prisoners in your custody secure or face severe financial penalties under Jeanna's Act," U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said.
Officials with California-based Extradition Transport of America were not immediately available for comment.
The suit filed in June 2012 sought $95,000 from the transport company. The largest claim among the residents was more than $25,000 for Dennis Smith, the property owner who wound up harvesting his corn before it was ready. Other requests for restitution for farmers ranged between $100 and $4,750.
"It's incidents like this that demonstrate the quality of the relationship between the community itself and their local, state and federal law enforcement officers," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. "Teamwork like this makes me proud to be a law enforcement officer in North Dakota."