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Associated Press, Published December 10 2012

North Dakota, Montana counties settle on inmate bill

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A yearlong dispute between two counties in neighboring states has come to an end, with officials in North Dakota agreeing to pay part of the hospital bill of a fugitive who was arrested in Montana.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that commissioners in Montana's Cascade County approved the settlement with Burleigh County in North Dakota on Friday.

The dispute began in 2011, when Thomas William Meloy walked into a Great Falls jail and said he was wanted in North Dakota for charges including passing bad checks.

Shortly after he was taken into custody, he began to complain of serious medical issues and was hospitalized, with a bill of about $25,000.

The Montana law says if a person is a fugitive of justice from an out-of-state jurisdiction the cost of holding them, pending extradition, needs to be paid by the out-of-state jurisdiction.

Cascade County Deputy Attorney Carey Ann Shannon said that cost includes medical expenses.

"The statute is available for us, and we certainly made an attempt to try to use it," Shannon said. "No reason for the local taxpayers to have to foot a bill for somebody who's not a fugitive here. So we certainly wanted as much contribution to that debt as we could (get)."

When Meloy was taken into custody, he was wanted in several jurisdictions, including Burleigh County. The county had a "no bond" hold on Meloy, meaning they didn't want him released on bond.

After his hospitalization, Meloy waived extradition and Burleigh County officials drove to pick him up in Great Falls.

Cascade County sent the $24,587 medical and detention bill to Burleigh County officials, but they refused to pay the bill.

Shannon said the officials in North Dakota believed the Montana law was unconstitutional, leading to a year of legal back-and-forth between the two jurisdictions.

Under the settlement agreement, Burleigh County didn't admit it owed anything, but agreed to pay $9,220 if Cascade County dropped the matter.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.