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Published October 06 2011

Bail set at $100K for offender caught in cornfield

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Bail was set at $100,000 Thursday for a registered sex offender who allegedly fled a prisoner transport van and led authorities on a 22-hour manhunt that ended with his capture Wednesday in a Barnes County cornfield.

The felony escape charge filed against 29-year-old Joseph Matthew Megna accuses him of escaping from the transport van at the Oriska rest area on Interstate 94 while being held in custody for felony extradition to Washington.

Judge John T. Paulson set bail during Megna’s initial court appearance.

Megna asked for a court-appointed attorney. If convicted of the charge, he faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Megna is charged in Washington’s Franklin County with first-degree child molestation – a Class A felony punishable by life in prison – for fondling a boy under age 12 on multiple occasions, court documents show.

The boy told police the molestation happened at a neighbor’s when Megna would visit to play video games, bringing three Nintendo DS systems in his backpack for the boys to play with and then taking them back when he left, according to the affidavit for probable cause filed by police in Pasco, Wash.

A warrant for Megna’s arrest was issued Sept. 12.

The affidavit states that Megna is a Level 3 sex offender, but his probation and supervision with the Department of Corrections has ended.

His record includes convictions for luring a minor with development disabilities in 2008; multiple counts in 2009 of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, fourth-degree assault and supplying liquor to minors; and probation violations for being at a park playground and having contact with minors, the affidavit states.

Barnes County State’s Attorney Lee Grossman said he plans to try Megna on the escape charge before letting Washington have him – that is, unless Megna posts bail, in which case Washington would likely try to have him extradited, Grossman said.

Megna told Paulson he doesn’t have a permanent address and his mail could be sent to his sister in Florida, where authorities picked him up for transport to Washington.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528