DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa woman who pleaded guilty in April to striking two children with her Jeep because they were Black and Hispanic has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for hate crimes.
Nicole Marie Poole Franklin’s two federal sentences, which were handed down Thursday, will run concurrently with one another, as well as with identical sentences she received in state court for the December 2019 crimes. Poole Franklin, 43, of Des Moines, was sentenced in May on two counts of attempted murder.
Richard D. Westphal, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, wrote in a sentencing memorandum last week that nothing could be more devastating to the “American dream of equality” than the actions Poole Franklin took on Dec. 9, 2019.
“Her actions temporarily shattered, but did not permanently defeat, this dream,” Westphal wrote. “Because these two courageous victims and their amazing families continue to epitomize the hopes of what our society can be.”
Poole Franklin’s victims were a 12-year-old boy, who is Black, and a 14-year-old Hispanic girl.
“Nicole Poole Franklin attempted to kill two children because of the way they looked and where she believed they came from,” read a statement from Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “This kind of egregious racial violence and hatred has absolutely no place in this country and will not be tolerated by the Justice Department.”
“Children deserve to walk the streets of their neighborhood without fear of violence.”
‘He’s just like ISIS’
According to police and court records, Poole Franklin spotted the boy and his older sibling walking Dec. 9, 2019, on a sidewalk in a Des Moines apartment complex. She drove her 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee over the curb and onto the sidewalk, striking the 12-year-old. The boy suffered cuts, bruises and swelling to his leg.
Poole Franklin drove away without stopping. Witnesses told police the vehicle that struck the child accelerated prior to hitting him.
That incident was captured on surveillance footage, authorities said.
Read the government’s sentencing memo below.
The government’s sentencing memo states that when federal authorities questioned her several days later, Poole Franklin said the boy was “just like ISIS.”
“He’s not supposed to be there, and he’s going to take me out,” Poole Franklin said.
Natalia, who suffered a concussion, cuts, bruises and swelling, was hospitalized for two days. She later spoke to KCCI in Des Moines as she recovered at her family’s home.
“I don’t remember the impact, I just remember the car coming towards me,” the teen said. “And then I remember waking up in the snow.”
Watch Natalia Miranda talk about her ordeal below, courtesy of KCCI.
Poole Franklin later told detectives she’d smoked meth a few hours before the attacks.
She was arrested about an hour after the attack on Natalia. According to police, Poole Franklin went to a West Des Moines Conoco gas station, where she was accused of berating the clerk, taking and eating items she had not paid for and throwing objects at the clerk, who co-owns the store with his brother.
A witness, Kevin Reed, told the Des Moines Register in 2019 that he was in the store when he saw Poole Franklin throwing bags of potato chips, referring to people by racial and ethnic slurs and destroying merchandise.
Mental illness and a lengthy rap sheet
Poole Franklin has a lengthy criminal history that started at the age of 18. Her federal public defender, Joseph Herrold, argued in a sentencing memo of his own that his client has suffered lifelong mental illness, attempting suicide for the first time at age 12.
Poole Franklin, whose troubled childhood included being molested, has been diagnosed as having schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, Herrold alleged in the memo.
“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.
Along with numerous trips to jail, Poole Franklin has been hospitalized multiple times for psychiatric treatment.
Read the defense’s sentencing memo below.
“She has a long and documented history of wild fluctuations and extreme variations in her mental health condition, and her life has involved significant periods of extreme paranoia, hallucinations, delusional beliefs and erratic behavior, all of which directly tracks with symptoms of schizoaffective disorder,” the memo states.
The defense attorney argued that his client’s mental illness, unstable life and use of drugs were factors in her actions on Dec. 9, 2019. Even after police arrived at the Conoco station and took her into custody, she continued to eat the food she had taken from the convenience store.
Agitated, she also chanted “white power” and uttered words like “Nazis” and “white pride,” Herrold wrote.
Poole Franklin was found incompetent to stand trial shortly after her arrest and was hospitalized for treatment. Her competency was restored a few months later.
She has since taken responsibility for her actions.
“There is no doubt that everything about this case is a tragedy,” Herrold wrote in the memo. “Two minor children were run over by Ms. Poole Franklin. They had done no wrong and did not see her coming.
“Ms. Poole Franklin is grateful that neither child was killed and is deeply sorry for the pain that she caused them.”
At Poole Franklin’s May sentencing hearing, her state public defender cited another factor that he said played a role in her actions: conservative news outlets.
The Register reported that attorney Matthew Sheeley said his client had “fallen under the spell” of the outlets, which he said portray immigrants as invaders of the U.S. A few days before the crimes against the children, she had been found hallucinating at a hotel in West Des Moines.
Poole Franklin was convinced at the time that she was there to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Sheeley said if she had not been in jail at the time, Poole Franklin “would’ve been in Washington storming the Capitol” during the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to the newspaper.
The fathers of both victims spoke at Poole Franklin’s May hearing.
Osman Sanford, the father of the 12-year-old, testified that his son became angry and aggressive after he was run over.
“I know it’s going to affect his life, so I’m just trying to help him,” Sanford said, according to the Register.
Natalia’s father, Cesar Miranda, also testified about the long-range impact Poole Franklin’s actions had on their family.
“My hope disappeared,” Miranda said. “My belief that I was free in this country was gone.”
The newspaper reported that Natalia spoke, telling Poole Franklin that bruises remain even after her physical injuries have healed.
“I’m sorry my skin color bothered you, but me and my people are never leaving,” the teen said.
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