Ben Trane will not be allowed to leave the state ahead of his upcoming trial on sexual and child abuse charges. A judge denied his request following a hearing Monday afternoon in Keokuk.
Trane owned Midwest Academy, a former boarding school for troubled teens that closed in early 2016 after local, state and federal law enforcement agents raided the school, which is near Keokuk, and removed the students amid abuse allegations.
Trane turned himself in at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in early September on charges that included child endangerment and 3rd degree sexual abuse.
He spent about a month in jail before a judge lowered his bond from $500,000 to $50,000, which a local resident posted on his behalf. The terms of his bond included a curfew and prohibited him from leaving the state of Iowa.
Trane has been staying at an apartment in rural Lee County since his release. He asked the court to grant him a seven day furlough to return to his home in Ammon, Idaho.
Trane testified during the 30-minute hearing on Monday that he was on vacation with his family in early September when he received an urgent message from his father that the FBI and other law enforcement officers were at his home in Idaho with a warrant for his arrest.
Trane said he drove 21 hours, without returning home, to turn himself in, leaving his own family to ride home with other family members.
“I didn’t have my clothes,” said Trane. “I had basically three outfits of beachwear for after I got out of jail.”
Trane said he would like to return to the home he rents in Ammon with his wife and their five children to pick up:
- Personal care items
- Computer equipment
- A box of Midwest Academy records
Trane testified that he needs the computer equipment for work at Polaris Education Systems LLC. The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office shows Trane’s wife, Layani, registered the company on May 12, 2017.
Trane said he works for the company but does not make any money because the company is not making any money yet. He has claimed to be indigent due to the lack of a job and no income.
Trane said if he has all of his computer equipment, he will be able to work at the apartment he is living in in rural Lee County as he awaits trial.
“I pretty much don’t leave the apartment,” said Trane.
Trane said he also needs the box of records to help in his defense for the criminal trial.
Trane said he would also like to spend Thanksgiving and his wife’s birthday with his wife and children.
“It has been really hard on them,” said Trane, adding that when he talks to them on the phone, “They cry about every time, asking when I am coming home, if I am coming home.”
Trane told District Court Judge John Wright that his in-laws brought him a vehicle that he would drive back to Ammon in if the furlough is granted.
“I have a vehicle I would drive out,” said Trane. “That is what I would prefer so I can bring stuff back.”
Trane said he would be willing to submit to additional check-ins via phone or email as well as having local law enforcement in Idaho stop in as needed.
“Anything would be fine,” said Trane.
Denise Timmins with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting Trane. She asked why his in-laws did not bring the clothing, personal items, Midwest Academy records, and the computer equipment when they brought the vehicle to him.
Trane said they did bring a few things, but they did not have time to locate everything he needed, adding that some of the items are in storage in a barn on his father’s farm in Idaho.
Timmins said the state opposed the furlough because it is an undue burden.
“I don’t think the state should have to spend the time and money to oblige,” said Timmins. “Although understandable, we have jails filled with people who do not get to spend Thanksgiving with others due to their actions.”
During his testimony, Judge Wright asked Trane why his application did not include the family visit as a reason for furlough request.
“That was not in the application,” said Wright. “That is just icing on the cake.”
“I did not know it needed to be,” said Trane.
Wright said, in making his ruling from the bench, that the court is placed in a difficult situation with this request due to “competing interests in this application.”
“Frankly, I’m torn on which way to go with this,” said Wright. “I can see the defendant finding the box, boxing up the computer, and spending time with his kids… but the purpose of picking up these two items seems to be risky and unnecessary.”
Wright said while he did not consider Trane a flight risk due to his previous actions related to this case, he felt someone could easily find the items Trane requires and have them shipped to him in Lee County.
“I see the danger in allowing Mr. Trane to leave the jurisdiction outweighing the benefit of returning to Idaho,” said Wright.
Wright then asked Trane if he is allowed to leave Lee County. Trane said only with the permission of his parole officer.
Wright said if Trane requested, he would provide a court order that said Trane could leave Lee County, but not the state, to pick up the items he requested if someone is willing to drive them to Iowa.
Trane’s trial is scheduled for December 12.