A white Iowa woman who admitted she ran over and tried to kill two children with her car because of their race was sentenced in federal court to 25 years in prison.
Nicole Poole Franklin, 43, pleaded guilty in April to federal hate crime charges for attempting to kill a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl in December 2019.
The Department of Justice said she targeted the minors “because of their race and national origin.” The boy is Black and the girl is Hispanic.
Poole Franklin’s public defender said via email on Friday that he could not comment on the case.
Related video: Why is prosecuting hate crimes so rare?
According to prosecutors, Poole Franklin was driving her Jeep Grand Cherokee in Des Moines on Dec. 9, 2019, when she saw the 12-year-old walking on the sidewalk with his sibling, also a minor.
“Upon seeing the children and believing that the victim was of Middle Eastern or African descent, Poole Franklin drove her vehicle over the curb towards both children, striking one of them,” the Justice Department said in a press release.
The victim suffered cuts and bruises but did not go to the hospital.
Poole Franklin sped from the scene and saw the 14-year-old victim walking near Indian Hills Junior High School in Clive about 30 minutes later. Believing the girl was Hispanic, prosecutors said Poole Franklin drove her Jeep over the curb, struck the child and drove away.
The girl hobbled to the school for help and was taken to the hospital to be treated for serious injuries, including a concussion and bruises, court documents state.
Poole Franklin was arrested later that same day after police responded to an incident at a gas station. According to court documents, she allegedly tried to steal items from a convenience store and began yelling racial slurs when she was confronted by an employee.
It wasn’t until days later, while still in custody, that police connected Poole Franklin to the hit-and-runs.
Poole Franklin told police during questioning that she ran over the boy because she believed “he’s just like ISIS” and “he’s not supposed to be there and he’s going to take me out,” according to court documents.
She said she hit the girl because she “wasn’t supposed to be in the country” and made a comment about Hispanic people “takin’ over … our homes, and our job,” the court documents state.
Richard D. Westphal, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, said Poole Franklin’s actions were callous.
“Holding Poole Franklin accountable, not only for her intentional actions, but for the malicious beliefs behind them, is what our justice system should be, and a must to provide just punishment, afford adequate deterrence, and protect the public from further crimes by this defendant,” he said in a sentencing memorandum.
Prosecutors noted that Poole Franklin has a criminal history dating back to when she was 18 that included convictions for theft, assault and harassment. They also said she has a history of substance abuse and mental illness.
During a hearing before the sentencing, the girl’s father told Poole Franklin that the assault was a nightmare for his family.
“My hope disappeared,” Cesar Miranda said, according to the Des Moines Register. “My belief that I was free in this country was gone.”
He added: “I don’t hate you because I don’t want to feel what you feel to my daughter. I hope you change because human beings can never live like this.”
The girl told Poole Franklin that the scars from that day are still with her, the newspaper reported.
“I’m sorry my skin color bothered you, but me and my people are never leaving,” she said.
Osman Sanford, the father of the injured boy, said his son became aggressive and angry after the attack. “I know it’s going to affect his life, so I’m just trying to help him,” he said, according to the newspaper.
Poole Franklin’s federal sentence will run concurrently to a 25-year state sentence for attempted murder charges. She will be under five years supervised release following her prison term.