WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Ben Trane Found Guilty; Sentencing in Early 2018

Dec 22, 2017

Ben Trane was found guilty Friday morning of child endangerment, sexual exploitation of a child by a counselor, and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. He is the former owner of Midwest Academy, a boarding school for troubled teens that was located near Keokuk.  He will be sentenced in about eight weeks.

The jury of 9 men and 3 women deliberated for about 2 ½ hours Thursday afternoon and Friday morning before delivering the guilty verdicts. The trial lasted nine days.

Trane sat emotionless in the Keokuk courtroom as the verdict was read by District Court Judge Mark Kruse. The jury was polled to ensure a unanimous decision. Kruse had told the audience to not get emotional but several people could be heard crying immediately after the reading of the verdict.

As soon as the people in the courtroom were allowed to leave, Trane walked briskly down the hall to a room the defense had been using during the trial. His wife, Layani Trane, and his attorney, Lisa Schaefer, soon joined him.

Ben Trane holds his wife's hand as he leaves the courthouse following his conviction of child and sex abuse charges.
Credit John Lovretta / Burlington Hawkeye

Trane remained in the room for about 20 minutes before exiting, holding his wife's hand. They quickly walked down a nearby stairwell, remaining quiet when asked for comment by nearby journalists.

The conviction on assault with intent to commit sexual abuse is considered a “lesser offense,” meaning the jury could consider it if it did not believe Trane committed the more serious charge of sexual abuse in the 3rd degree.

Trane will remain free on bond until his sentencing. The terms of his bond require him to remain in Iowa. His wife and five children live in Idaho.

Trane faces up to nine years in prison.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Denise Timmins prosecuted Trane. She did not offer a comment immediately after the reading of the verdict, instead standing with several Iowa Department of Human Services workers who were in the courtroom.

Schaefer said her client did not agree with the verdict but respected the judicial process.

Trane was accused of inappropriately touching or sexually abusing a female student nearly a dozen times in 2015.

A former staff member contacted the Iowa Department of Human Services after the student told her that Trane had “done things with her.” That staff member won a default judgment against Midwest Academy for nearly $750,000 for wrongful termination, saying she was fired for calling the state.

Trane was also accused of endangering the physical, mental, and emotional health of two 12-year-old boys enrolled in Midwest Academy. The two boys reportedly spent more than half of their time at the school in isolation rooms.

Midwest Academy closed its doors in early 2016, following a raid by local, state, and federal agents amid abuse allegations. Trane testified that 80-100 students were enrolled in the school at the time of its closure.