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North Dakota Farmers Help Flush Out Escaped Florida Sex Offender

A Florida prisoner picked the wrong state when he fled from a private transport van and ran into a 310-acre corn field. “This is unique in the sense that, God bless North Dakota, we bring everybody together to solve the problem and we put guys up on combines,” said Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney.

Convicted sex offender Joseph Matthew Megna, 29, was being transported from Florida to Washington state by Extradition Transport of America. During the evening of October 4, 2011, Megna escaped from a rest stop near Tower City, North Dakota. He was not handcuffed and was wearing street clothes when he fled, according to authorities, and the transport guards had left the van’s side door open and the padlock to the transport cage unlocked.

In true cooperative spirit, local farmers fired up six combines and harvested about 100 acres of corn under SWAT team escort to flush Megna out of the field. The manhunt ended when he surrendered 22 hours after escaping.

Sitting in the backseat of a police vehicle, Megna was confused to see a throng of media.
“Am I famous for running into a cornfield?” he asked a reporter. He said he had fled because he wasn’t fed enough by the transport guards and was hungry. A vegetarian, he claimed he was given nothing but bread and cheese.

“I was starving, and that’s why I escaped and fled out into the cornfield,” he stated. “I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody.”

North Dakota law enforcement officials made it clear that they expected Extradition Transport to pay for the costs of the search. “Their mishandling of this situation cost the taxpayers of all these entities a lot of money,” said Sheriff Laney. “It was incompetence,” he added. “This was corrections 101. You account for and secure your inmates, and we wouldn’t have had to do all this if they would have done their job the right way.”

Laney noted that the company, which is bonded and insured against such incidents, was cooperating with authorities. He also suggested, however, that they might be subject to sanctions under Jeanna’s Act, a federal statute sponsored by former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan that imposes certain requirements on prisoner transport companies. [See: PLN, Sept. 2006, p.1].

Extradition Transport paid almost $8,000 to local law enforcement agencies, but according to a September 7, 2012 news report the company refused to cover all the expenses associated with apprehending Megna, which were estimated at $95,000 – including sheriff and police officers, a K-9 unit, the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service, a SWAT team, a helicopter and a State Patrol airplane with thermal imaging equipment.

In June 2012 the federal government filed a lawsuit against the company for violations of Jeanna’s Act, seeking penalties and restitution for the costs of the search. The suit remains pending. See: United States v. Extradition Transport of America, LLC, U.S.D.C. (D. N.D.), Case No. 3:12-cv-00046-KKK.

Meanwhile, Megna pleaded guilty to a felony escape charge and was sentenced to three months time served in jail; he was then extradited to Washington.

Sources: Associated Press,,,

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Related legal case

United States v. Extradition Transport of America, LLC