Former Wyoming Highway Trooper Appeals Kidnapping Plot Sentence
A former Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment for a kidnapping and murder plot has appealed his sentence, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
Franklin Joseph Ryle, Jr., of Douglas illegally arrested and kidnapped a Walmart truck driver near Douglas in January 2009, and used his service weapon in the arrest.
Ryle, now 50, was sentenced in November 2009 to 10 years, one month imprisonment for depriving a person of his rights while acting under color of law (as a trooper); and a consecutive five years for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He is serving his sentence at the Seagoville, Texas, Federal Correctional Institution.
A third count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence was dismissed at sentencing.
In his appeal, Ryle wrote the sentence for the possession of a firearm should be reversed because the law is unconstitutionally vague, according to the motion filed in U.S. District Court by his attorney Michael Stulken of Green River.
Stulken, wrote that Ryle was a Marine and later joined the Highway Patrol.
He claims Ryle's attorneys were ineffective because they failed to appeal the sentence, and because they failed to ask for a competency hearing. Ryle also said the prosecutor recommended a larger sentence than the one -- as part of the plea deal -- mentioned at the sentencing hearing.
Ryle did not file an appeal earlier because the case law about the unconstitutionality of the firearm sentence was not decided until December 2016. He initially was institutionalized far from his family and those able to help him file his appeal. He also was in a reduced mental state because of severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ryle dealt with several incidents -- a multiple fatality accident in 2000, a woman completed suicide a year after he tried to convince her to not do so, his inability to save a girl in an ATV accident, a high-speed chase during which he nearly lost his life, and personal issues.
These resulted in the depression and PTSD that influenced the kidnapping plot and the delay in filing an appeal, Stulken wrote, saying, "However, despite his dedication to the force, when Mr. Ryle was in trouble, the Wyoming Highway Patrol sadly turned their back on him and did not offer him the help he needed."
According to court records, Ryle had planned the kidnapping and murder plot for several weeks.
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation report, cited in the affidavit accompanying the arrest warrant for Ryle, said a Wal-mart truck driver reported on Jan. 15 to a Wyoming Highway Patrol major that he was pulled over by Ryle on southbound Interstate 25 in a remote, unlighted area near Douglas on Jan. 8. The driver did not immediately report the incident to the Highway Patrol because he didn't want to get in trouble with his employer for leaving the truck unlocked and unattended.
Ryle checked the driver's license, and told him to get into the back of his patrol car, according to court records. Ryle told him there was an arrest warrant for him out of Colorado, placed his hand on his holstered handgun, handcuffed him, told him he would drive him to the jail in Douglas.
The driver asked Ryle if he could secure the truck, which was unlocked and running, but Ryle said another trooper would be along to do that. Ryle drove him into Douglas and was doing something with the dashboard mounted video camera. Ryle parked the car outside a house and went inside for about 10 minutes. Ryle came outside, got in the car and drove the driver back to his truck. Ryle released him, saying there was a mistake about the warrant.
A DCI agent learned there was no video recording of the traffic stop, nor was there a warrant for the driver.
Meanwhile, the DCI had learned that Ryle had told others that he wanted to stage an accident with the Wal-mart truck, have the driver killed, use the truck to hit his patrol car, and he would receive a large settlement with the company. He intended to have someone beat him with a sledge hammer to show he was injured in the incident.
Other interviews revealed Ryle had spoken with a trooper who lived in Casper that he wanted to stage an accident with the Wal-mart truck and kill his wife. On Jan. 16, Ryle called that trooper and asked him to remove steroids and syringes from Ryle's desk. That didn't happen and the drugs and paraphernalia were seized as evidence.
According to an interview with the trooper in Casper, Ryle decided not to steal and crash the Wal-mart truck because it had a GPS system.
The federal government's sentencing memorandum said, contrary to a psychiatrist's evaluation, that Ryle exhibited a pattern of criminal activity over five years including smuggling illegal steroids into the United States, extortion and threats against a Colorado man, embezzlement of funds from the Highway Patrol, theft of $1,000 from the Highway Patrol Association, obstruction of justice by asking the trooper from Casper to destroy evidence of steroid possession, and soliciting the trooper from Casper and another trooper in the plot to kill the driver and defraud Wal-mart.
The sentencing memorandum also cited the testimony of the truck driver who said the crime, "'took away my trust in law enforcement. I am wary every time I see a police car.'"