Rebecca Grossman faces sentencing Monday

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

LOS ANGELES – Sentencing is set Monday for Grossman Burn Foundation co-founder Rebecca Grossman, who wrote that she is “not a murderer” despite her conviction on second-degree murder and other charges stemming from a crash that killed two young boys in Westlake Village.

Prosecutors are asking Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino to sentence Grossman to 34 years to life in state prison, writing in a sentencing memorandum that she is “more than deserving” of the maximum term for the Sept. 29, 2020, deaths of Mark and Jacob Iskander, aged 11 and 8.

Defense attorneys are urging a sentence of either probation or the lower state prison term of just over 12 years on the less serious vehicular manslaughter charges.

Grossman, who will turn 61 on Friday, was convicted Feb. 23 of two counts each of second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving. The judge ordered her to be taken into custody minutes after the jury’s verdict, rejecting a request by one of her trial attorneys to allow her to remain free on $2 million bond while awaiting sentencing.

In a typed letter to the judge, Grossman wrote, “… I am not a murderer, and I ask you to recognize that true fact. My pain, my recognition of the pain the Iskanders suffer, and the pain I watch my family endure, are punishments that I already suffer and will for the rest of my life. Please consider this suffering when you consider what more punishment to impose on me in this case.”

In the letter submitted with the defense’s sentencing brief, Grossman wrote, “As God is my witness, I did not see anyone or anything in the road. I swear to you, I would have driven my car into a tree to avoid hitting two little boys.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

She wrote that her “involvement in the tragic accident that resulted in the death of Mark and Jacob haunts me every day, and I can only imagine the pain that (the boys’ parents) Nancy and Karim Iskander feel minute by minute,” and that “I will carry my pain for the rest of my life.”

Grossman wrote that she penned a letter and left roses at the scene of the crash, and has “relived the life-shattering split second of the accident over and over in my head a million times.” But she maintained that she was “not driving under the influence of alcohol or impaired, and I was not racing.”

“… From the very beginning, the facts have been distorted and misrepresented, turning the tragic accident into murder and me into a cold- blooded killer,” she added. “The voices demanding vengeance and retribution are reacting to the tragic loss of Mark and Jacob, but they do not fairly describe me or who I am. I am not a murderer.”

In their sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorneys Ryan Gould, Jamie Castro and Habib Balian wrote that the defendant’s actions since the night of the crash “show a complete lack of remorse and narcissistic superiority that leads to only one conclusion, that she is undeserving of any leniency.”

“The defendant has never shown an ounce of remorse for her choices on September 29, 2020. She has never taken a modicum of responsibility. Instead, she has only blamed others,” the prosecutors wrote. “She has blamed the victims, arguing that they were out of the crosswalk, jetted out in front of her car, and that their mother was careless in walking with her children across the street when it was starting to get dark outside.”

The prosecutors wrote that she has also blamed her ex-boyfriend, former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, and claimed that he hit the children first “when there was not a shred of evidence to prove this to be true.”

“She has lived a life of privilege and clearly felt that her wealth and notoriety would buy her freedom … This was not a tragic accident as the defense continually states, this was murder,” the prosecutors wrote.

The deputy district attorneys contended that she “drove at extreme speeds on surface streets, was impaired and had both alcohol and valium in her system,” and that the evidence presented during her trial indicated she “accelerated from 73 mph to speeds of 81 mph in a 45 mph zone just two seconds before the collision” and struck the boys while traveling at 73 mph.

The prosecutors wrote that she “didn’t return to the scene” or offer any aid to the boys after the crash, which prosecutors say resulted in the airbag deploying in her white Mercedes-Benz SUV and the vehicle’s engine to stop running about a quarter of a mile away from the scene.

The prosecutors also wrote that Grossman has a “lengthy Vehicle Code violation record” that includes a 2013 conviction for driving faster than 65 mph in connection with a traffic stop by a California Highway Patrol officer on the 101 Freeway.

The prosecutors wrote that Grossman “still refuses to take responsibility for her actions” in a letter she wrote to the boys’ parents, making the letter “about her and how the system has failed her.”

In the letter to the Iskanders, Grossman wrote, “I  wish God had given me the opportunity to give my life instead of that of Mark and Jacob’s,” and that she was “so sorry that I was portrayed as a monster to you.”

She wrote the boys’ parents that she wished she had testified in her own defense during the trial so she would have “the opportunity to share my heart with you,” and that she wished they could “feel my heart.”

She added in her letter to the boys’ parents that she has had her eye on a house that could be bought and turned into a patient and family burn and trauma home, and wants to dedicate the home and name it after the two boys.

In their sentencing brief, her new defense attorneys James Spertus and Samuel Josephs countered that “there was a terrible accident, and Ms. Grossman is responsible for causing the accident, but the offense conduct does not warrant a life sentence or the type of lengthy prison term reserved for the most callous, heinous crimes.”

The defense attorneys wrote in their motion that the judge could impose probation with a suspended state prison sentence, writing that “a probationary sentence is the only way to allow her to spend the rest of her life trying to make up for this tragedy.” The judge could otherwise sentence her to 12 years and four months on the vehicular manslaughter charges — instead of sentencing her on the murder charges — or to run the sentences on the murder counts at the same time as each other since “they involved the same acts, were committed at the same time, in the same place and indicate a single period of aberrant behavior,” according to the defense’s court filing.

Spertus and Josephs wrote that Grossman has been “widely recognized for her work at home and abroad,” saying she is a “survivor of childhood trauma and abuse” who had an “inner resilience that enabled her to see beyond her circumstances and find a greater purpose in service to others,” including helping a young burn victim from Afghanistan to whom she and her husband became legal guardians and leading the Grossman Burn Foundation to help medically indigent and low-income families “connect to life-changing burn resources that would otherwise be out of reach.”

The defense attorneys’ sentencing brief also includes letters from about three-dozen of Grossman’s supporters, including her husband, Peter, who wrote that a probationary sentence “would enable her to live out her remorse through continued service and contributions to society, particularly in ways that honor the memory of the Iskander children.” Her 19-year-old daughter, Alexis, wrote, “This image of my mom being a rich entitled woman is absurd to me because she is the most humble and altruistic woman I’ve ever encountered” and that she “does not deserve to be in prison,” while the defendant’s son, Nick, wrote that she is “truly the nicest, most caring, empathetic, selfless person” whose “world revolves around helping others.”

At a hearing last Monday, the judge rejected a motion for a new trial that was filed by her current attorneys, who replaced the team of lawyers that represented her during the trial.

Jurors deliberated for about nine hours before rejecting her lead trial attorney Tony Buzbee’s contention that Erickson, who was driving a black Mercedes-Benz SUV just ahead of Grossman’s vehicle, struck the boys first.

Prosecutors said the boys were crossing the street with their family in a marked crosswalk when they were struck by Grossman’s vehicle. Gould told jurors in his closing argument that debris from the crash matched Grossman’s vehicle and there was “not a shred” of evidence that Erickson struck the children.

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

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse shortly after the verdict, 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.

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.