Highway Cop Plotted to Kill Him, Trucker Says

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (CN) – A truck driver claims a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer stopped him on a deserted stretch of highway with plans to murder him and use his truck in an insurance fraud scheme, and that police officials later tried to cover up the aborted crime by offering the driver $10,000.

     Richard Smidt, of Arvada, Colo., sued former WHP Officer Franklin Ryle and his supervisors in Federal Court. Smidt claims the four top officials in the department and several other officers knew about Ryle’s murderous intent and history of criminal behavior, including smuggling anabolic steroids into the United States from Mexico.
     Ryle pleaded guilty to depriving Smidt of his constitutional rights and using a firearm during a crime and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November, federal prosecutors said.
     Ryle admitted he stopped Smidt on Interstate 25 on the night of Jan. 8, 2009 with a plan to murder him and stage an accident, according to the complaint. Ryle hoped to use the accident to kill his wife, or make money through a settlement with Wal-Mart – Smidt’s employer – or both, according to federal prosecutors and Smidt’s complaint.
     According to the 65-page complaint:
     Ryle arrested Smidt on a fake warrant, handcuffed him and locked him in his patrol car. Ryle drove to his home in Douglas, Wyo., leaving the Wal-Mart truck unsecured and with its engine running on the side of the highway.
     In Douglas, with Smidt waiting in the patrol car, Ryle tried to persuade his wife to help him carry out the plan. Ryle eventually backed out because the truck was equipped with GPS, and he let Smidt go.
     Smidt says his bosses at Wal-Mart persuaded him to file a complaint with the Wyoming Highway Patrol, in what they all thought was a simple case of mistaken identity. The WHP went along with Smidt’s assumptions and offered him $10,000, according to the complaint.
     But Smidt says that when he accepted the settlement, the WHP “knew full well that [he] had been kidnapped and had almost been murdered by one of their troopers.”
     Smidt says that it wasn’t until he attended a hearing in Ryle’s criminal trial that he heard for the first time that Ryle had planned to kill him. Smidt says he immediately returned the check.
     “In exchange for $10,000, [Smidt] allegedly waived his right to bring an action for the total and complete failure of the WHP command,” his lawsuit states.
     Smidt says he later found out that Ryle had a history of criminal behavior, including smuggling steroids from Mexico with fellow WHP officers. Ryle also told at least one fellow officer about his plans to stop a Wal-Mart truck and kill the driver, but that officer failed to inform his supervisors, according to the complaint.
     Smidt sued Ryle, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. Sam Powell and six other officers: Jess Oyler, John Butler, Keith Groeneweg, Willie Price, Devan Henderson, and Nate Hughes. He seeks punitive damages for fraud, fraudulent inducement, conspiracy, false imprisonment and constitutional violations.
     Smidt is represented by John Speight with Speight, McCue and Crank of Cheyenne.

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