Socialite Rebecca Grossman denied new trial in Westlake Village crash that killed 2 young boys

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Monday, June 3, 2024
Socialite Rebecca Grossman denied new trial in Westlake Village crash
Rebecca Grossman has been denied a new trial. She was convicted in February for running over and killing two young brothers in Westlake Village in 2020.

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- A judge Monday rejected the defense bid's for a new trial for Rebecca Grossman, who was convicted in February of second-degree murder for a crash that killed two young boys who were struck while walking with their family in Westlake Village.

Grossman's new team of attorneys had asked Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino to grant Grossman a new trial on the pair of murder charges, contending that there are "at least five reasons'' she is entitled to have the case heard by another jury.

The 60-year-old co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation was found guilty Feb. 23 of two counts each of second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving in connection with the Sept. 29, 2020, deaths of Mark and Jacob Iskander, aged 11 and 8.

She is facing up to 34 years to life in state prison, with sentencing set next Monday.

The judge said the evidence was "sufficient to support a finding of implied malice," adding that he believed the prosecution had met its burden under the current case law.

During a hearing in the Van Nuys courtroom, one of Grossman's new defense attorneys, James Spertus told the judge, "It's a tragedy. It's not a murder."

He said that the defendant is a mother who expressed tremendous concern for the victims and that she "does not have a malignant heart."

"I'm not justifying the speed. I'm not downplaying the tragedy," Spertus told the judge.

In court papers opposing the defense's motion, prosecutors Ryan Gould, Jamie Castro and Habib Balian wrote that the judge "clearly instructed the jury with all applicable and appropriate law'' and that "the overwhelming direct and circumstantial evidence clearly demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty."

The prosecutors noted that evidence presented during the trial indicated that Grossman "accelerated from 73 mph to speeds of 81 mph in a 45 mph zone just two seconds before the collision" and that she "drove with her accelerator pedal 'floored,' at essentially 100%, immediately preceding the collision" and struck the boys while traveling at 73 mph -- the equivalent force of dropping her SUV on the boys from the height of a 12-story building.

Grossman subsequently failed to stop at the scene or provide any aid or assistance to the boys, according to the prosecutors.

The judge rejected a number of contentions from Grossman's new legal team, including a claim that jurors should not have heard about a 2013 speeding ticket Grossman received from a California Highway Patrol officer who testified that she told him she hoped he never needed the services of the Grossman Burn Center.

Outside court, Grossman's attorney told reporters that he was disappointed that the sentencing will be going forward, but said he thinks that "the community will understand how Ms. Grossman suffers every day" and "cares very much about the loss of life this accident resulted in."

He described Grossman as having "an incredibly tough childhood," saying that she was abused and "was effectively on her own" starting at 12 years old, and that she is "loved by a community of people who understand who she is as a person."

"She has saved many children in her lifetime. Her work will be presented, and the world will see how she opens her home, she opens her life to children in need of help," said Spertus, who is among three of Grossman's new attorneys. "And to paint her as a callous person who had malice aforethought is just a label that doesn't apply to her, and, most importantly, the evidence of who she is wasn't relevant at trial so nobody understands her."

Julie Cohen, a friend of the victims' family, told reporters, "We're very pleased that there is no new trial, and sentencing will be next Monday. And hopefully, we will after almost four years be out of this court system and begin this process of healing and doing good deeds in Mark and Jacob's name.''

Jurors deliberated for a total of about nine hours before rejecting then-defense attorney Tony Buzbee's contention that Grossman's then-boyfriend, former Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, was driving a black Mercedes-Benz SUV that struck the boys first.

Prosecutors said the boys were crossing the street with their family in a marked crosswalk when they were hit by Grossman's white Mercedes-Benz SUV and that she continued driving and eventually stopped about a quarter-mile away from the scene when her vehicle's engine stopped running. Gould told jurors in his closing argument that debris from the crash matched Grossman's vehicle and that there was "not a shred" of evidence that Erickson struck the children.

The judge -- who said Grossman had been convicted of "very serious crimes" -- ordered her to be taken into custody shortly after the verdict was read, rejecting a request by one of her trial attorneys to allow her to remain free on $2 million bond while awaiting sentencing.

The victims' mother, Nancy Iskander, was in tears after the first guilty verdict was announced.

"We're very thankful, and it's now time to do good in the name of Mark and Jacob," said Nancy Iskander.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse in February, she said she bears no hatred for Grossman and said it was heartbreaking to see the defendant taken away in handcuffs.

She said she felt like she was attending her sons' funeral every day she came to court for the trial.

"It (the trial) wasn't easy, but it will bring me closure," she said then.

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