SSRI Stories note: Incident happened Jan. 8th, 2009.
Paragraph six reads: Weiss said Ryle, a former Marine and a 12-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, had been diagnosed with depression before January and since his arrest had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Ryle said he is taking medication, which “keeps me from being a little aggressive.” But he assured the judge he understood his guilty pleas and he wanted to clear his conscience.
Ex-trooper pleads guilty to kidnapping charges
By the Budget staff
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:58 PM Mountain
Former Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper Franklin Joseph Ryle told a federal judge he aborted a scheme to kill a Wal-Mart truck driver, stage a highway accident and get a big settlement, when he came to his senses and told himself, “I can’t do this.”
“I thought it was going to be easier than it was,” Ryle said while standing in an orange jump suit with his legs shackled in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. He had stopped the truck on Interstate 25 near Douglas and put the driver into the back of his patrol car but then stopped the scheme when he realized, “There was no way I was going to hurt him.”
Ryle, 44, of Douglas, asked U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer to accept a plea agreement struck with government prosecutors July 14. The plea agreement is sealed until the sentencing hearing, which Brimmer said would be at least a month away.
Edward Caspar, a civil rights attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice, began the hearing by asking Brimmer to accept the plea agreement. To enter the plea, Ryle waived his constitutional right to a public jury trial.
Standing before the judge with his attorney, Public Defender Jim Barrett, Ryle pleaded guilty to the first two counts of a federal indictment and a third count was dropped. He faces at least 19 years in prison. A maximum sentence could be life imprisonment, according to Assistant Public Defender David Weiss. Ryle has been held in Scottsbluff, Neb., since his arrest in March.
Weiss said Ryle, a former Marine and a 12-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, had been diagnosed with depression before January and since his arrest had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Ryle said he is taking medication, which “keeps me from being a little aggressive.” But he assured the judge he understood his guilty pleas and he wanted to clear his conscience.
In handing down the sentence, Brimmer will consider a pre-sentencing report by a federal probation officer, and both Ryle and the victim will be able to address the court.
“Overriding emotional and psychological factors will be presented to the court at sentencing,” Barrett said.
Ryle pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully arresting and kidnapping truck driver Richard Smidt while acting under color of law, a violation of his civil rights. The penalty is 14 to 17 1/2 years.
Ryle also pleaded guilty to one count of brandishing a firearm during the crime, although he told Brimmer that when he touched his gun as he approached the truck driver he was just checking to make sure it was on his hip, where it was supposed to be. An FBI affidavit indicates the driver considered the gesture threatening. The mandatory minimum sentence is five years in prison.
The third count, which Weiss said was the most serious of the three, accused Ryle of soliciting the death of the truck driver. That count was dropped.
Ryle told Brimmer that he put the truck driver into the “cage” in the back of his patrol vehicle and drove to his house in Douglas, He went inside to talk to his wife. He told her the driver was dead but otherwise explained the faked accident scheme.
“Were you going to have to kill the trucker?” Brimmer asked.
“Yes, sir,” Ryle said.
“Was that your intention in regard to Roger Smidt?” Brimmer asked.
“Yes, it was,” Ryle said.
Ryle made no mention of the truck’s global positioning system or the part it might have played in his decision not to go through with the staged accident. Court documents had suggested Ryle backed off his plan when he realized the truck had a GPS system.
Weiss later emphasized Ryle and other troopers suffer from the stress of their job and don’t get the treatment they need. “These guys are under a lot of stress. The guy is suffering legitimate issues.”