Des Moines woman who intentionally hit Black, Latina children sentenced on federal hate crime charges

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Philip Joens / The Register
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By Philip Joens and Andrea May Sahouri

Des Moines Register

A woman who told Clive police she intentionally struck a 14-year-old with her SUV because the girl was Latina and a Black 12-year-old boy because he appeared to be Middle Eastern and a member of an Islamic terrorist group was sentenced in federal court Thursday on two hate crime charges.

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A U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Iowa, Stephanie Rose, sentenced Nicole Poole Franklin to 25 years and four months in prison.

Nicole Poole at her preliminary court hearing on December 30, 2019.
photo by Tar Macias / Hola Iowa

Poole, 43, of Des Moines pleaded guilty in state court in April to two counts of attempted murder. She was sentenced to 25-year-concurrent sentences for those charges in May. Her federal hate crime sentence will run concurrently to her attempted murder sentence by the state.

The victim’s family submitted sealed victim impact statements to the court, but did not wish to have them read aloud.

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Poole’s attorney asked the judge, when sentencing his client, to consider Poole’s severe mental health illnesses — including schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and substance abuse — as well as traumatic events in her life.

Her attorney called her mental illness and traumatic events a “toxic cocktail” for the events leading up to Dec. 9, 2019, when Poole hit the children with her vehicle and told police she’d done so because of their race and ethnicity. Since then, he said, Poole has taken responsibility.

Poole herself apologized to the victims and their families in court Thursday.

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Judge Rose acknowledged Poole’s state of mind when issuing her ruling.

“This is a difficult case on many, many levels. … It’s a tragic case on many levels,” she said. Ultimately, however, Rose said Poole has been unable to get the help she needs, and her mental health is a danger to herself and others.

“It’s unfortunate this country has not prioritized mental health. … It’s clear this woman desperately needed help.”

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At 3:54 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2019, police said Poole intentionally ran over the boy as he walked on a sidewalk at an apartment complex in the 6000 block of Creston Avenue in Des Moines. He suffered minor injuries to his leg, according to a criminal complaint filed in state court.

In federal court in April, Poole said she thought the boy was of Middle Eastern descent and was in the Islamic State terrorist group. Surveillance video showed Poole’s vehicle driving over a curb to strike him, according to the state’s complaint.

About 30 minutes later, at around 4:20 p.m., Poole struck the girl as she was walking on a sidewalk in the 9200 block of Indian Hills Drive, according to criminal complaints. The 14-year-old was hospitalized for two days, according to the Associated Press.

Clive police said Poole told them she targeted the girl because she was “Mexican.” They also said she smoked meth hours before the attacks, according to a criminal complaint.

Later that afternoon, at around 5:15 p.m., police were called to a Conoco gas station in the 100 block of First Street in West Des Moines after Poole allegedly began stealing items. Poole called an employee and customers Middle Eastern racial and ethnic slurs and threw items at an employee and customers, according to a state criminal complaint.

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