25-Year Sentence for Iowa Woman Who Drove Into Children Because of Their Race

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Nicole Poole Franklin, 43 of Des Moines, was sentenced on two federal hate crime charges in connection with the 2019 attacks.

Nicole Poole Franklin in court in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2019.
Credit...Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register, via Imagn Content Services

Azi Paybarah

Aug. 19, 2021, 9:02 p.m. ET

A white Iowa woman who admitted that she had tried to kill two children because of their race in 2019 by hitting them with her car was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison on two federal hate crime charges, officials said.

The woman, Nicole Poole Franklin, 43 of Des Moines, Iowa, had already been sentenced in May to 25 years in prison on state charges of attempted murder in the attacks. The federal sentence will be served concurrently with the state term, which means, in effect, that she will spend more time in prison, according to Richard D. Westphal, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.

“Nothing can be more devastating to the American dream of equal rights” than what Ms. Poole Franklin did when she drove her car into the young victims, Mr. Westphal wrote in a sentencing memo. “Her actions temporarily shattered, but did not permanently defeat, this dream.”

Joseph Herrold, a lawyer for Ms. Poole Franklin, declined to comment.

Court documents described a harrowing pair of unprovoked attacks by Ms. Poole Franklin on Dec. 9, 2019, as she drove her Jeep Grand Cherokee by children who she believed were Middle Eastern, African or Mexican.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m. that day, Ms. Poole Franklin was driving on Creston Avenue in Des Moines when she saw two young people who she thought were Middle Eastern or African, according to a federal agreement under which she pleaded guilty to hate crime charges in April. She drove the Jeep “over the curb, onto the sidewalk, toward both minors” and struck one of them, it said. The child, a 12-year-old Black boy, suffered pain, cuts, bruising and swelling, according to the plea agreement.

Then, Ms. Poole Franklin drove away.

Less than an hour later in the city of Clive, just west of Des Moines, Ms. Poole Franklin was driving near a junior high school. There, she saw a 14-year-old girl walking on the sidewalk who she believed to be Mexican. She drove her Jeep “over the curb, over the sidewalk” and struck the child, according to the plea agreement and law enforcement officials. The girl suffered pain, cuts, bruising, swelling and a concussion.

Ms. Poole Franklin drove off and was arrested by the police later that day, according to a statement from the Clive Police Department. She later told investigators that she ran the girl over because she thought the girl was “a Mexican,” according to the Police Department.

In a sentencing memo pleading for leniency, Mr. Herrold said that Ms. Poole Franklin had a long history of mental illness, and had received diagnoses of schizoaffective disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. “As she entered adulthood, struggling with mental illness, substance use problems, unstable housing, and poverty, Ms. Poole Franklin began having problems with the law,” he wrote.

At her sentencing on state charges in May, Cesar Miranda, the father of the 14-year-old victim, said that he forgave Ms. Poole Franklin, though the attack left him deeply shaken, The Des Moines Register reported. “My hope disappeared,” he said, according to the newspaper. “My belief that I was free in this country was gone.”

A message left for Mr. Miranda on Thursday evening was not immediately returned.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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