Justice for Ben? Clearing the Record on Ben Trane’s Trial

January 4, 2018

News, Troubled Teen Industry

It pains me to have to write this article but in light of recent events, I am compelled to write about something that was called to our attention. As you may have read on our site or any number of other media outlets, Ben Trane was found guilty of all charges on December 22nd, 2017. He was not only found guilty of several charges in relation to sexual abuse but also a charge for child endangerment for his facility’s treatment of children. Since that time, there has been a group of Ben Trane supporters who have been working around the clock to change public perception of Ben Trane by sometimes lying or victim shaming. I’m writing this article in response to an article written on the Stand With Ben page written by Jacob Franklin and hosted on that webpage by Stephanie Nordyke.

 

Jacob Franklin’s mugshot, May 2016 (Nauvoo Police Department).

Jacob Franklin of Nauvoo, IL claimed to many that he would have the article in question published on The Daily Caller and he boasts about being a “head writer” at The Daily Caller on his Facebook page. As far as we can tell, he’s only ever written one opinion piece for them over a year ago right before he went to jail according to his Daily Caller author page.  We will get to the part about his jail time later. In Jacob’s article, he attempts to position himself as the champion of children but that he’s shocked and outraged that a jury of Ben’s peers found him guilty after he’s reviewed all the “facts.” The author positions himself as an unbiased party just reviewing facts – while completely neglecting his duty as a “journalist” to disclose that he’s been a long-time friend of Ben Trane and has some personal bias in the matter. This is important in terms of journalistic integrity and should be noted here.

Edit: It seems since the time we originally posted this article that Franklin has modified his Facebook to show himself as a “writer/content contributer” at the Daily Caller instead of “head writer.” For historical purposes, we are posting a screenshot of his original Facebook claim here:

Franklin brings up the fact that both Midwest Academy and Ben Trane’s home were raided even though Ben had no previous criminal complaints. This is misleading, since, as it’s been pointed out many times in online communities and in the trial, the children did not have access to contact authorities or child advocates. They had “earn” the right to even speak to each other. Every communication with the outside world was monitored and severe consequences were dealt if ever they spoke ill of the program. This is well reported in the coverage about the trial.

The only reason these charges came to light is because the victim was on suicide watch in the school and disclosed the incident to a staff member by the name of Cheyenne Jarred. That staff member reported it to the state and was promptly illegally fired by Ben Trane a week later. This wasn’t the only complaint, however, made about Ben Trane. The FBI got involved since they too had received complaints about the amount of time seven different students spent in isolation, per Jenny Richardson’s testimony in the trial.

Despite Franklin claiming that there has been only one accuser, there were several adult women who responded saying that they were abused by Ben Trane which you can see from the below screenshots:
Victim #1:

Victim #2:

Instead of addressing those concerns or researching the validity of them as a real journalist would,  Franklin dismissed then as trying to justify their “misspent youth” and tried to bring the attention back to the original victim as if she were the only accuser:

On top of that, for years, former students have spoken out about being abused. The Des Moines Register conducted a public records request that found that over 80 calls were made to the sheriff in 3 years in regards to Midwest Academy and of those 80 calls, 5 of those included sexual offense allegations. Many more ex-students of Midwest Academy that have come out in recent days stating that they had been physically and psychologically abused by Ben and his staff, but they couldn’t press charges because they were minors at the time and their parents still supported the program. Others say they haven’t filed made formal accusations because they were trying to move on from their traumatic experiences. (Given the conduct of Franklin and his ilk since the conclusion of the trial, who can blame them? More on that later.) Further negating Franklin’s charge that no one was uncomfortable or ever felt anything was wrong in the school, some former staff also came out to say that they did not feel comfortable with how the children were treated and stated so publicly.

Another staff member specifically stated on Facebook that he never was comfortable with the fact that Ben Trane would sometimes take the girls out alone and that he had witnessed this.

If staff in this small community are threatened with being fired for reporting suspected abuses to the authorities and students are blocked from any access to child care advocates until forensic evidence is gone, is it any surprise that there haven’t been more charges?

Another point that Franklin brings up is the accusers name and her history – specifically an event that happened when she was 15 years old.  I’ll clear the air on this one: She was a 15-year-old who ran away from home. Franklin accuses her of “faking an abduction” in his article, but had he read or watched the videos from these news pieces that he googled, he might have noticed that the police officers involved in the case themselves contradict this accusation. Instead, they stated on the news that they felt she was likely abducted because she had no history of running away or behavior like this.

Victim’s name redacted.

Franklin attempts to re-write the narrative – into something that the public facts and officials clearly dispute. Regardless of this, maybe all kids don’t run away but all kids make mistakes and bringing up the mistakes a child made 4 years ago has nothing to do with the charges against Ben Trane. As far as we can tell, she wasn’t a drug addict or convicted of any crimes. It serves no other purpose than to try to rewrite the victim of sexual abuse as a “villain.” It is, in short, victim-blaming of the highest degree.

Franklin attempts to paint a picture that the victim was a liar because another student claimed that the victim said she had a history of making similar sexual abuse accusations and that she was going to say something to “get everyone out of” Midwest Academy. Franklin claims this never came up in trial because it was inadmissible due to Iowa’s rape shield laws. This is incorrect and a blatant misunderstanding of how rape shield laws work. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that prior false accusations could be introduced and were exempt from rape shield laws, but to introduce them as evidence, Ben Trane would have to prove there were false accusations, which would have required more than just hearsay. If there were false allegations, why was there no proof or previous victims of false sexual allegations ready to testify? Instead, Franklin tries to blame it on the rape shield law showing that he either is willfully ignoring case law or failing to sufficiently research his article prior to writing it. Another claim by Franklin is that the victim claimed their were witnesses to the abuse and these girls claim they never witnessed anything but as clearly reported during the trial, the victim testified there were students in the vicinity of the sexual abuse but she states under oath that they did not witness it directly. This testimony makes Jacob’s supposed evidence of Ben being innocent not really evidence at all since it is exactly what the victim stated during the trial.

Another important thing to note is that the victim had no way of knowing that the staff member would report the abuse to the authorities given that they were threatened with being fired if they did, nor could the victim have known that the authorities would raid the school once the accusation came out. Claiming the victim was going to do something to get everyone out would mean that she would have to somehow be able to tell the future and see an unlikely series of events coming together (Jerred calling the authorities, the FBI and DHS raiding the school, etc). It also still doesn’t make sense for the victim to carry it all the way to court at this point in terms of motive. She’s now a 19-year-old woman who could easily state that she doesn’t want to testify because it would be too hard. She can’t be threatened to be placed back into a school like Midwest Academy again. What would the motive be to testify at this point? To save face? That would be a silly argument considering her name was not in the news regarding the sexual abuse with Ben Trane so it would have little effect on her to walk away. Instead, this grown woman went to court, bravely stared down Ben Trane, and testified even though there was nothing he could do to her at this point, knowing full well she would suffer the kind of disgusting treatment being heaped on her by Franklin and his posse of sex abuse apologists.

Franklin also brings up that the FBI and DHS raided the school and claims they found “no evidence.” What he neglects to mention is that key surveillance videos were missing and Ben’s own testimony to the FBI was that he would turn some of them off because he kept catching employees stealing and didn’t want to deal with it anymore. One would think that if he cared so much about the students, he would want to keep them and their possessions safe from thieving employees, but it seems that Ben was more interested in firing employees if they reported him than if they were stealing. Additionally, Iowa DCI Lead Agent Joe Lestina also testified that in most cases they don’t find DNA evidence, so finding none was not out of the ordinary. However, law enforcement did find semen on the carpet in front of the security camera monitors in one of the offices; this leads to some disturbing conclusions, especially given that images of sleeping girls were also found on Trane’s phone. This is all well reported.

As far as the sexual surveys that were found and the body image class, these were found to be grooming behaviors by Ben in a court of his own peers. Ben was in no way qualified or educated to be administering therapy and these “tools” he was using were not part of any APA-approved standards, there was no reason to why he would need to know the detailed sexual history of the children there. Franklin also forgot to mention in his article that Ben would have the girls strip down in front of the mirror for body image “class” (despite the fact that he was not licensed to perform therapy or head a class). In fact, the concept of “body shape” he was using is not supported at all by scientific evidence. Numerous students have come forward stating they were asked to take off their clothes in front of Trane for these “classes”, but Franklin painted it as though Ben simply escorted them to the room with the mirror when there was no other staff and they took their clothes off on their own. One cannot help but wonder why no similar “class” was offered to male students.

In Franklin’s laughably facile article, he continues to state that the children in this school were “the worst of the worst” and that this was one step away from jail while asking the reader a couple paragraphs later to believe the glowing recommendations of previous students. This sends that message that all children who complain about the program are “bad children” and all those who speak positively are “good children” that you should believe. I’d like to provide the admissions criteria from Midwest Academy to shed some light on the type of children that were at the school.

Basically, Midwest Academy will allow anyone who might be depressed, have a poor self esteem, making poor choices in life, trying drugs, having sex, stealing, etc. Sounds like a teenager but does that mean Midwest Academy will take any “bad” children? The answer is no according to the rest of this document:

According to Midwest Academy’s own admissions criteria, kids who are extremely violent, suffering from severe psychiatric disorders, impaired, and having certain “mental health diagnoses” were not allowed in the school.

He uses a strawman argument of an ex-student who killed his parents later after MWA was closed as an example of the “harm” that was done because of the closure. What he forgets to mention is that Gavin Glasz was suspected of having an untreated mental illness and spent most of his time in OSS (isolation) at Midwest Academy instead of getting the mental health treatment he needed. He also neglected to mention that Gavin Glasz was 18 years old at the time of the murders which meant he couldn’t have been held at Midwest Academy against his will then anyway. According to the public news reports, it’s alleged that Gavin Glasz also had an undiagnosed mental illness according to his schoolmates. Too bad Midwest Academy didn’t provide him any psychiatric help to provide a proper diagnosis in time. If anything, one could make the argument that lack of proper psychiatric care was the real killer here and it doesn’t sound like he was going to be receiving that at Midwest Academy since they didn’t want to admit someone with a “severe psychiatric disorder.”

To wrap this up, I’m going to talk about Jacob Franklin a little. In his article, he brings up the victim’s unrelated past from 4+ years ago, claims without any proof she has a history of mental illness, and then goes on to say she has a history of false accusations, again without proof. However, if we are to judge someone based on their past, Jacob Franklin should be honest about his own. He is, in fact, a felon who spent quite a bit of time last year in jail and has a long history of being on the wrong side of law, as you can see from the screenshots below of his actual court records obtained from the Iowa court system website.

He pleaded guilty to 2nd degree theft and had his identity theft charges dismissed. His 5 years prison sentence was suspended and he still has to pay restitution based on the public details:

His history with theft goes back to the 90s where he also pleaded guilty on similar charges:

He was arrested last year in a joint investigation between the Nauvoo Police Department, Keokuk Police Department and Burlington Police Department for multiple crimes reported including four counts of identity theft and a warrant for second degree theft, to which he pleaded guilty, as seen in the above pictures. His arrest was covered in this news story.

When questioned about his criminal history by another survivor of MWA, Franklin had the following to say:

Editor’s Note: The “book” he references as writing appears to be an 82 page, self-published, xenophobic and racist screed replete with typos that no self-respecting publishing house would touch. Excerpt here, TW.

While none of us on WWASP Survivors would agree with Franklin’s assertion that mental illness of the victim is cause to not believe an accusation, it bears noting that this standard is a double-edged sword. On Franklin’s own public Facebook, he states that he’s suffering from bipolar disorder and wants to speak up for mental health, the exact opposite of what he is doing in the article he wrote:

It seems he’s also no stranger to making claims that others make false accusations:

After claiming his wife had made false accusations against him, he even had their divorce invalidated in order to force her to remain legally married to him:

Stephanie Nordyke, whom we mentioned above, is the other person working with Ben Trane and Jacob Franklin to administer the website containing inflammatory accusations against the victim of sexual abuse. She currently is asking for donations for Ben Trane’s appeal and states that Midwest Academy “saved her life.” I would like to take a moment to point out that while we have no knowledge of what her life was before she went to Midwest Academy, she was far from being on a “straight and narrow” path after she was released and had her fair share of bumps.

Nordyke graduated from Midwest Academy in 2007 as noted on her public Facebook share.

Starting in 2008, her criminal problems began.

 

 

In 2014, she was bragging on social media about her lawyer “beating that case” while she took selfies.

In 2017, she has a public post about just being 3 years clean from meth which would have put her on meth sometime around 2014 when her lawyer was “beating that case.”

Later in 2017, she’s off probation and able to vote for the first time in her public life.

 

As you can see, Jacob Franklin and Stephanie Nordyke certainly have their share of skeletons in their closets. To be fair, almost everyone does. We are merely bringing these up because they are publicly posted and as a reference to point out the hypocrisy of attacking the victim of a sexual assault for things like running away when she was a child or claiming that someone said she had a mental illness when the author of the article was a recently convicted felon who spent part of last year in jail, admitted he has a mental illness, and has a fuzzy history of his own with women and claiming they have falsely accused him and the other person leading the campaign against the victim is someone with a fuzzy history with the law and drugs herself.  We’ll let you judge his article and its merit for yourself, but unlike Franklin or Nordyke, we were sure to link references to all the news stories, court cases and other media from where we got our facts (with the exception of the ones that mention the victim of sexual abuse by name as we will not cross that line, also unlike Franklin).

If you think Ben Trane deserves the maximum sentence for his crimes against children, please consider signing this petition

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About Sudo

Sudo is an international person of mystery and occasional guest blogger on WS who believes children shouldn't be abused, and abusers and hypocrites should be called to account.

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