Iowa Woman Admits to Hitting Children With Car Because of Their Ethnicity

An Iowa woman who tried to kill two children in 2019 by hitting them with her car because she thought they were of Middle Eastern, African or Mexican descent has pleaded guilty to attempted murder and hate crime charges, the authorities said.

The woman, Nicole Poole Franklin, 43, made the admission to two counts of hate crime charges on Wednesday, according to federal prosecutors. She faces life imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charges, the Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday.

“Nicole Poole Franklin attempted to kill two children because she thought they came from another country,” Pamela S. Karlan, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the department’s civil rights division, said in the statement. “All people in the United States, regardless where they come from, have the right to be free from fear of violence because of who they are.”

According to a plea agreement for the hate crime charges, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Ms. Poole Franklin was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2019, in Des Moines when she saw two children who she believed were of Middle Eastern or African descent walking on the sidewalk.

She intentionally drove the vehicle up the curb and onto the sidewalk, striking one of them and causing injuries, the document said. She then drove away. The assault resulted in cuts, bruising and swelling, the statement from the Justice Department said.

Less than an hour later, she saw another child who she believed to be of Mexican descent walking near Indian Hills Junior High School in Clive, a city of about 17,000 residents about 10 miles west of Des Moines, and hit the child with the car, causing serious injuries, the court filing said.

It described each event as an “attempt to kill the minor.”

The child in the second episode, a 14-year-old girl, had a concussion and bruises and was hospitalized for two days, The Associated Press reported in 2019. Television news footage showed her in a neck brace and walking with crutches before being released. “I don’t remember the impact,” she told the Des Moines news station KCCI. “I just remember the car coming toward me.”

Ms. Poole Franklin has also pleaded guilty in Iowa District Court for Polk County on April 19 to two counts of attempted murder and a sentencing hearing will be on May 28, court documents show. Both of those charges carry prison sentences of up to 25 years, the petition to plead guilty says.

A lawyer for Ms. Poole Franklin declined to comment on the case on Friday. The Des Moines Register reported that during her appearance on Wednesday, she said she had experienced schizophrenia as an adult and had post-traumatic stress disorder.

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