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Lawyer for L.A.-area socialite charged with murder for running over two boys says crosswalk was a danger

A woman and a man wearing masks walk outside a courthouse
Rebecca Grossman leaves Van Nuys Courthouse during a break from her preliminary hearing in April. Grossman is charged with murder and other counts stemming from a 2020 crash in Westlake Village that left two young brothers dead.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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An attorney for Rebecca Grossman, the L.A.-area socialite charged with murder for running over two young boys with her SUV in a Westlake Village crosswalk, offered a preview of her defense Tuesday, disputing prosecutors’ allegations of her speed and calling the pedestrian crossing a known danger.

The 58-year-old Hidden Hills resident and co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation awaits trial on two counts of second-degree murder in the September 2020 deaths of brothers Mark and Jacob Iskander after California’s Supreme Court refused last month to consider dismissing the charges.

During a court hearing Tuesday, the judge did not set a trial date after the prosecutor noted that Grossman’s lawyers have yet to turn over all the evidence from their experts. A hearing was set for next month, likely pushing back the trial until late spring, prosecutors said.

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In addition to bringing in experts to dispute the speed of Grossman’s vehicle in the fatal collision, prominent Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee on Tuesday said he had gathered evidence showing that the city of Westlake Village knew the crosswalk on Triunfo Canyon Road was dangerous and described by the city engineer as a “blind curve” for motorists.

Rebecca Grossman’s legal team argued she did not have implied malice when her vehicle killed youngsters Mark and Jacob Iskander in a crosswalk.

Sept. 7, 2022

Buzbee said two independent experts, “based on objective data” and supported by a witness, had determined Grossman’s speed at the time of the crash was 51.9 mph, but Grossman’s legal team offered no specific data. The posted speed limit on that section of Triunfo Canyon Road is 45 mph.

Technical experts from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department testified in an earlier hearing that data extracted from the computers on Grossman’s Mercedes-Benz showed its peak speed was 81 mph as it approached the crosswalk and was still 73 mph at the moment of impact.

Buzbee on Tuesday provided city documents to reporters that he said show the pedestrian crossing was described by the city engineer as a “blind curve,” along with emailed complaints from citizens.

If “someone gets killed I hope the family knows that this has been reported repeatedly and sues the city for negligence,” one of the emails said. Buzbee noted that the Iskander brothers’ parents have sued the city of Westlake Village along with Grossman in their deaths.

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In September, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino rejected a motion to dismiss the murder charges against Grossman, finding there was probable cause to determine that she acted with implied malice by speeding when she struck Mark, 11, and Jacob, 8, as they crossed the street with their mother and younger brother.

Austin Lee Edwards said he checked into a mental health hospital in 2016. Further inquiry might have kept him from becoming an officer, a police official said.

Jan. 9, 2023

In upholding the murder charges, Brandolino said it was clear that Grossman not only had been driving 73 mph through the crosswalk after consuming alcohol but also was familiar with the area and knew it often had pedestrians. One deputy testified that Grossman had been ticketed for speeding on a nearby canyon road months before the fatal crash.

The crosswalk was clearly marked, Brandolino noted, and Grossman was closely following an SUV driven by her friend, former Dodgers player Scott Erickson.

But Brandolino in that ruling disagreed with Judge Shellie Samuels, who oversaw the preliminary hearing, on one point. “I don’t believe the evidence shows she saw the children,” he said.

Prosecutors said evidence shows Grossman “floored it” on the suburban street behind Erickson’s SUV after drinking with him, adding that Grossman’s blood-alcohol level was about 0.08%, the legal limit for intoxication in California. She is not charged with DUI.

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Grossman also faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death. L.A. County sheriff’s deputies testified in a preliminary hearing that Grossman failed to return to the scene and did not render aid after the crash.

Nancy Iskander, Mark and Jacob’s mother, has repeatedly complained about delays in the court proceedings, saying they represent more than two years of her family’s suffering.

Grossman founded the Grossman Burn Foundation with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, whose family created the renowned medical facility.

She faces 34 years to life in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty and is free on $2-million bail.

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