An Iowa woman pleaded guilty to hate crime charges for attempting to kill two children because she thought they were of Middle Eastern, African, or Mexican descent.
Nicole Franklin, 43, admitted to the charges on Wednesday, the Justice Department said in a statement.
“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.”
In the first encounter, Franklin was driving her SUV in Des Moines, Iowa on Dec. 9, 2019, when she saw two kids walking along the sidewalk. She believed one of the kids was of Middle Eastern or African descent and “drove her vehicle over the curb towards both children, striking one of them.”
She then drove away.
The Des Moines Register reported Franklin thought the 12-year-old boy was a member of the Islamic State terrorist group.
Around half an hour later, Franklin was driving and saw a child who she presumed was Mexican walking on the sidewalk near Indian Hills Junior High School in Clive, Iowa. She again drove her car over the curb and struck the child. She fled the scene but was caught later that day.
The first child suffered cuts, bruising, and swelling. The Associated Press reported in 2019 that the second victim, 14-year-old Natalia Miranda, suffered a concussion and severe bruising and was hospitalized for two days.
“I don’t remember the impact,” Miranda told the KCCI. “I just remember the car coming toward me.”
Franklin also yelled derogatory statements about Latinos during her interview with police, according to the AP.
The Des Moines Register also reported that after these incidents, Poole allegedly drove to a Conoco gas station and began both stealing items and hurling others at an employee and customers while calling them Middle Eastern racial and ethnic slurs.
The president of the League of United Latin American Citizens as well as the Des Moines chapter of the group also called on prosecutors to charge Franklin with a hate crime at the time.
If Franklin pleads guilty to the federal hate crime charges she could face a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charged offenses. Her federal sentencing date is set for Aug. 19.
The Des Moines Register added that Franklin has also pleaded guilty in Iowa District Court to two counts of attempted murder over the incidents.