Woman pleads guilty to hate crimes for running down children

A photo provided by the Polk County Jail in Iowa shows Nicole Marie Poole Franklin. (Polk County Jail)

A Des Moines woman has pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes for intentionally driving her SUV into two children in 2019 because she said she thought one was Mexican and the other was a member of the Islamic State group.

Nicole Poole Franklin, 43, entered the pleas Wednesday in a Des Moines federal court to two counts of violating the U.S. Hate Crime Act for trying to kill the children in separate attacks because of their races. She pleaded guilty Monday to two state counts of attempted murder in the same Dec. 9, 2019, attacks, the Des Moines Register reported.

Prosecutors said Franklin intentionally jumped a curb in Des Moines that afternoon and struck a Black 12-year-old boy, injuring one of his legs. During her hearing Wednesday, Poole said she thought the boy was of Middle Eastern descent and was a member of IS.

Minutes later, Franklin ran down a 14-year-old Latina girl on a sidewalk, leaving her with injuries for which she was hospitalized for two days. Police said Franklin told them she hit the girl because "she is Mexican." About an hour later, Franklin was arrested at a local gas station, where officers say she had thrown items at a clerk while yelling racial slurs at him and other customers.

Franklin has said she is schizophrenic and has post-traumatic stress disorder. Last year, a judge ruled that she wasn't mentally competent to stand trial, but she was later restored to mental competency and ordered to face trial.

The federal counts carry a possible life prison sentence, but prosecutors recommended that Franklin be sentenced to 27 years behind bars and that her federal sentence be served at the same time as her state sentence. On the state counts, Franklin faces up to 25 years on each attempted murder count. It wasn't clear if other state counts, including hate crimes, would be dropped as part as her guilty plea in state court, the Register reported.

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