By Ben Neary
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Federal authorities say a former Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a Wal-Mart truck in January and took the driver into custody as part of an aborted plan to kill him and crash the truck into his patrol car to collect damages from the company.
Franklin Ryle, 41, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court to charges alleging he violated the driver's civil rights by kidnapping him, carried a firearm in the process of committing a crime and tried to persuade another trooper to help him.
Ryle is no longer working as a state trooper. His attorney, David Weiss, declined to comment after the hearing.
In a previously sealed affidavit, FBI agent Richard P. Fanelli said Ryle stopped a Wal-Mart truck on Jan. 8 near Douglas, handcuffed the driver and told him he was under arrest on a Colorado warrant of failing to appear in court. Douglas is 115 miles northwest of Cheyenne.
According to Fanelli, the driver told investigators Ryle drove him to Douglas, parked the patrol car outside a house and left him locked in the back seat. Ryle then took the driver back to his truck and released him.
The affidavit said Ryle told investigators that he had driven to his home with the truck driver because he had a sick child. Ryle said he released the driver after checking with dispatchers a second time about any outstanding warrants and learning that there was none.
However, the affidavit stated that investigators checked national computer records and found that there never had been an initial report of a warrant against the driver that evening to justify his arrest.
The affidavit also stated that Ryle later told Trooper Devan Jarred Henderson that he couldn't target a Wal-Mart truck because they're equipped with GPS. Such systems would record that the truck had been stationary for a period of time.
Ryle had discussed his plan earlier with Henderson, the affidavit said. It alleged that among ideas, Ryle had suggested Henderson might drive the truck into his patrol car so that Ryle could be injured and sue Wal-Mart. Henderson was not at the scene when Ryle stopped the truck.
Authorities began investigating on Jan. 14 after Ryle's wife told her brother, a member of the Casper Police Department, about the alleged scheme.
Andrea Ryle told investigators that her husband told her he planned to smash the truck driver's head against the windshield, "to make it appear he died from injuries from the crash." She said he then intended to drive the truck down the road and smash it into his patrol car.
"She said her husband told her that if she helped him stage the accident, he `would not ever have to work again,'" the affidavit stated.
Col. Sam Powell, highway patrol administrator, said Ryle was no longer employed as of Tuesday. He declined to say if Ryle was fired or resigned.
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An attempt to reach Henderson at the Highway Patrol office was not successful Tuesday. Powell said Henderson has been on administrative leave since February.