A judge has ordered three inmates who escaped from the Iron County-Utah State Correctional Facility to stand trial on felony escape charges.

In his ruling, 5th Circuit Judge Robert Braithwaite rejected defense attorney James Shumate's argument that the men should be charged with misdemeanors, since the facility houses both county and state prisoners.Inmates Gordon William Thomas, Steven Wade Foster and Charles Clyde Rushton, who have been returned to Utah State Prison, are to be arraigned May 1.

The three escaped April 7 by climbing a basketball standard in the exercise yard and cutting a wire net at the top. They were captured 18 hours later at a truck stop 13 miles north of the correctional facility.

Shumate cited a 1973 Utah statute saying inmates who escape from the state prison face second-degree felony charges, while escapees from county jails may be charged with Class A misdemeanors.

But correctional facility director Jimmy Stewart told the judge the facility is owned by the state, which funds 52 percent of its budget.