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Bail set at $100,000 for sex offender fugitive

Convicted sex offender Joseph Megna talks to the reporters following his capture on Wednesday in Tower City, N.D. Megna, who fled a private transport company's van Tuesday while being moved from Florida to Washington state, was caught on Wednesday after farmers and officials worked together to flush him from a cornfield. Michael Vosburg / The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead / Forum Communications

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - A registered sex offender who fled a prisoner transport van and led authorities on a 22-hour manhunt that ended with his capture Wednesday in a Barnes County cornfield has been charged with escape here.

The charge, filed this morning in Barnes County District Court, accuses 29-year-old Joseph Matthew Megna of escaping from the transport van at the Oriska rest area while being held in custody for felony extradition to Washington.

Judge John T. Paulson set bail at $100,000 cash during Megna's initial court appearance this morning, and Megna asked for a court-appointed attorney, said Wanda Auka, Barnes County's clerk of district court.

If convicted of the Class C felony escape charge, Megna faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin said Megna faces charges of gross sexual imposition and child molestation in Washington state.

McClaflin said the county plans to open a claim today against the transport company, Extradition Transport of America, based in Riverside, Calif., to recoup costs associated with the manhunt, which he said are still being tallied.

A helicopter and airplane were used in the search, which authorities said involved 57 law officers from seven agencies. Local farmers with combines, tractors and trucks also harvested part of the cornfield five miles northwest of Tower City to help authorities flush out Megna.

He surrendered without incident at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Megna told the judge today he doesn't have a permanent address and his mail could be sent to his sister in Florida, where he was picked up by authorities for transport to Washington.

This article is by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Forum and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.