Rebecca Grossman was back in a Los Angeles courtroom on January 10, where a hearing over the socialite’s looming trial on murder charges for allegedly running over and killing 11-year-old Mark Iskander and his 8-year-old brother, Jacob Iskander, in September 2020 ended with a judge rescheduling the postponed proceedings for May.
In the gallery that Tuesday morning, a showdown brewing between the two sides in the crowded courtroom later spilled into the hallway outside, where a bailiff had to separate the two sides from congregating together in front of the public elevator at the Van Nuys courthouse.
It has been two years and four months since Grossman was arrested for the hit-and-run deaths of the two young brothers in Westlake Village. The long wait in the murder case has dragged on for over two years as multiple delays—from the Covid-19 court backlog, attempts to get a state appeals court to drop second-degree murder charges against Grossman, to the sudden death in 2022 of her lead defense attorney, Richard Hutton—are only arousing further ire in the community.
Recently, the counterclaim from Grossman’s new defense team, led by prominent Houston litigator Tony Buzbee, has become clear, as the defense has been feeding the press word from two independent experts who, “based on objective data” and supported by a witness, will challenge the speed at which prosecutors have alleged Grossman was driving at exactly 7:10 p.m. on September 29, 2020; defense attorneys have also plied reporters with documents from the city of Westlake Village showing the pedestrian crossing was a known safety hazard.
LAMag has learned, according to a source close to the case, that the defense plans to allege that it was not Grossman who hit the Iskander boys with her vehicle, but ex-Dodger Scott Erickson, with whom she’d had margaritas at Julio’s Agave Grill in Westlake Village that day.
Now, two diametrically opposed pictures of what happened the night of the crash are emerging. According to prosecutors, Grossman was driving 73 mph and under the influence of alcohol when she barreled into the boys at a marked crosswalk, preceded by pedestrian crossing signs, and in an area with which she was familiar enough. The L.A. Times carried remarks from Buzbee that the defense experts and data will prove she was driving 51.9 mph, her blood-alcohol content was below the legal limit of 0.08%, the road was dark, and warnings from residents about the likelihood of a deadly collision at the “blind curve” on Triunfo Canyon Road, where the posted speed limit is 45 mph, went unheeded by the city of Westlake Village.
However, this is only half the story of the defense’s strategy, LAMag has learned.
A source with knowledge of the case says that the Grossman defense team is looking for the SUV that Erickson was driving that night and seeking evidence to pin the boys’ deaths on him. Adding intrigue to the defense gambit, the defense team has had trouble locating the vehicle, as Erickson appears to have sold it since the crash.
Asked about this, an attorney for Grossman declined to comment. The baseball player’s attorney, also Harvey Weinstein’s pitbull, Mark Werksman, was unavailable to discuss the case when contacted by LAMag. Previously, Werksman said that Erickson “was not driving recklessly or irresponsibly at the time of this incident.”
A World Series-winning pitcher for the 1991 Minnesota Twins, member of the 2005 Dodgers, and sportscaster Lisa Guerrero’s ex, Erickson was with Grossman on the night of the crash. They were seen drinking margaritas together along with another retired baseball star, Royce Clayton, the head varsity baseball coach at Oaks Christian.
According to local sources, Grossman and Erickson had a long-standing friendship—that summer, he was even the celebrity judge at a hot sauce competition to benefit the Grossman Burn Foundation The two left the restaurant separately that evening; witnesses to the deadly collision that followed minutes later described seeing Erickson’s black SUV racing with Grossman’s white Mercedes GLE43.
Mark and Jacob Iskander were crossing Triunfo Canyon Road with their mother, Nancy Iskander, and younger brother, Zachary, then age five, as Grossman’s car and the black car driven by Erickson advanced on the intersection at Saddle Mountain Drive.
Tense Hearing Takes Emotional Turn
At the Van Nuys courthouse on Jan. 10, prosecutors and Grossman’s lawyers squared off to decide how quickly the case would proceed to trial. Defense attorneys Buzbee and John Hobson asked the judge for more time to contact expert witnesses for the case, while prosecutor Ryan Gould noted that the D.A.’s office was still awaiting all the evidence from the defense team’s experts.
The public seating area in the rear half of the courtroom was evenly divided between attendees hostile to Grossman and her supporters. On the left side were spectators decked out in T-shirts bearing images of Mark and Jacob and the phrase, “JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED.” On the right side, in understated, expensive-looking clothes, friends and neighbors of the defendant sat with her husband, the renowned surgeon Dr. Peter Grossman, who serves as medical director of the Grossman Burn Center and is co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation. While Rebecca Grossman has been criticized by a judge for not attending previous hearings in her case, she was early to the courtroom on Jan. 10, biding time in an anteroom as her opponents were seated with Nancy Iskander, the mother of the two victims.
Iskander was the last person to enter the courtroom before Grossman. She walked in, unaccompanied by her husband, biotech executive Karim Iskander, and took a seat in the front row, behind Gould.
According to a local news report, Mark and Jacob Iskander were both deacons at Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Simi Valley. Mark was in the sixth grade at Oaks Christian, a private day school, and the same one in Westlake Village where Grossman’s son attends high school.
When she slipped into court for the early morning hearing, most of the court and all the attorneys for both sides had been seated. Grossman entered alone, wearing a tan waistcoat, dark slacks, and a blue surgical mask, her hair in a ponytail. Rather than walking down the center aisle and through the swinging doors into the well of the courtroom, Grossman took a longer trek around the right side of the room and beelined to the defense table.
She remained standing, her hands folded, eyes forward during the five-minute-long hearing. The judge said he didn’t want the trial to start any later than May—two months later than its previously estimated start date. When the brief proceedings ended but before the judge returned to chambers, a visibly frustrated Nancy Iskander rose to her feet in tears.
“Tell her that Jacob’s birthday is this Friday,” she said, referring to Grossman as the judge was standing up from the bench. “And I’m seeing her. I don’t want to see her—I want my son.”
As the proceedings broke up, Grossman turned to embrace several friends and neighbors among her supporters. Across the courtroom, a voice broke out suddenly from the Iskander supporters arrayed across the courtroom: “You people are disgusting.”
As attendees began to congregate around the elevator leading out of the courtroom, a bailiff, likely sensing potential conflict, asked the two opposing sides to separate. He ordered Grossman, along with her husband and supporters, to wait in the courtroom. Following the bailiff’s instructions, the defendant did make a passing remark to Julie Cohen, a supporter of the Iskanders from Oak Park in Ventura County and the woman responsible for the Mark and Jacob T-shirts and stickers.
“I know you think you’re doing the right thing,” Grossman told Cohen over her shoulder, “but you don’t know the details.” Cohen was not convinced, yelling, “She just called me out!”
Inside a set of doors separating the courtroom from the hallway, one friend of the Grossman family, who drove with his wife from Reseda to show up for Grossman, said. “What happened was an accident, and you cannot blame anyone for an accident.” Outside the doors, near the elevator, Iskander told reporters the amount of time that had passed since the death of her two sons—833 days.
The case will now go back to court for a status conference on March 6, during which both sides will update the judge on their progress.
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