Trucker accosted by WY trooper sues the state

| Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Wal-Mart truck driver kidnapped and accosted by a state trooper in Wyoming who considered killing the driver has sued the trooper and several other state officials.

In November, former trooper Franklin Ryle Jr. was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the kidnapping plot, which included plans to kill the driver before staging a crash and collecting settlement money from Wal-Mart.

On Jan. 8, 2009, Ryle pulled Colorado trucker Richard Smidt over on Interstate 25 outside of Douglas, WY. Ryle took Smidt into custody but didn’t take him to jail, and he later admitted that he considered killing the truck driver.

One month after the kidnapping, Smidt accepted a $10,000 settlement on possible legal claims.

In his lawsuit, Smidt says Wyoming Highway Patrol officials didn’t tell him that Ryle had planned to kill him, saying only that Ryle wanted to take his truck.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit charges that Ryle’s supervisors failed to adequately oversee him and other troopers, and that Ryle violated Smidt’s constitutional rights.

The suit names Ryle, Wyoming DOT Director John Cox, Highway Patrol Col. Sam Powell and other state troopers as defendants.

During Ryle’s sentencing in November, court papers revealed details about Ryle’s plans.

During questioning, Ryle told investigators that “he and ‘every other Trooper’ have joked that if they are ever hit by a truck, they hope it is a Wal-Mart truck.”

Immediately after pulling Smidt over, Ryle placed chock blocks between the Wal-Mart truck’s wheels, and instructed him to start the truck engine and leave it running. Ryle then called his wife, saying he had the “opportunity of a lifetime.” He instructed her to make up a reason to drop their kids off at her mother’s residence, and to report back to their home.

According to court documents, Ryle’s wife said her husband told her that a Wal-Mart driver was dead in his truck cab, and that he planned to stage an accident. Ryle told her he planned to smash the driver’s head against the windshield to cause injuries consistent with a crash.

Ryle handcuffed the driver and told him he had a warrant out of Colorado before the trooper drove to a house. Ryle went into the house for about 10 minutes, returned to the car, and drove the driver back to the truck. The driver watched Ryle “tapping his ticket book with a pen and adjusting the dashboard video screen,” appearing to contemplate what to do next. Ryle then released him and said there was an error.

Ryle apparently wasn’t shy about his scheme to make money.

According to Wyoming Trooper Devan Henderson, Ryle told Henderson several times that he could stage a truck wreck to crash into a car driven by Ryle’s wife. Henderson said he didn’t know whether Ryle was serious, but “did not want to be considered a rat” if Ryle turned out to be joking.

Ryle told Henderson the day after he released Smidt that his scheme to defraud Wal-Mart would have to be replaced by a similar plan to pull over a Halliburton truck.

The FBI and the Wyoming Highway Patrol began investigating Ryle after his wife told her brother, a police officer, about her husband’s plan to kill Smidt.

The investigation into Ryle also revealed that two troopers involved in the Wal-Mart truck scandal told Wyoming Highway Patrol supervisors they had been involved in smuggling steroids into the U.S. from Mexico and had used steroids while they worked as state troopers.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com