Rebecca Grossman Sentenced to 15 Years to Life for Running Down 2 Boys

Rebecca Grossman Sentenced to 15 Years to Life for Running Down 2 Boys

Rebecca Grossman, left, and daughter heads to Van Nuys Courthouse in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles, on Feb. 14, 2024. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via AP)

City News Service

City News Service

6/10/2024

Updated: 6/11/2024

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LOS ANGELES—In an emotion-packed hearing, Grossman Burn Foundation co-founder Rebecca Grossman was sentenced Monday, June 10, to 15 years to life in prison for running down two young boys who were crossing a Westlake Village street with their family.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino rejected a prosecution request that Ms. Grossman be sentenced to 34 years to life, saying such a lengthy term is “just not warranted here.” The judge called the children’s deaths an “unimaginable loss,” but he noted Ms. Grossman’s lack of any criminal record and history of philanthropic activity. While conceding that the defendant engaged in “incredibly selfish behavior” after the crash, the judge added, “she’s not a monster as the prosecution attempts to portray her.”
Ms. 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 for the Sept. 29, 2020, deaths of Mark and Jacob Iskander, aged 11 and 8. 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.
Tears flowed throughout the hours-long sentencing hearing that stretched into early Monday afternoon. Ms. Grossman could be seen crying as people spoke during the hearing.
When it was her turn to speak, Ms. Grossman turned toward the courtroom audience—containing the boys’ family—and again fought through tears, saying she wanted the family to know “how sorry I am.”
She insisted that she was unable to reach out to the boys’ family as the case was pending on the advice of her attorneys, who told her it would amount to “tampering with witnesses.”
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to reach out to you,” Ms. Grossman said.
She also insisted that she never saw the boys in the street the night of the crash.
“God knows that I never saw anybody,” she said. “I never saw anyone. I believe he knows the truth.”
She added that she would have “driven into a brick wall” rather than strike two children. She said the boys’ deaths are something she will carry with her “until my dying breath.”
The boys’ mother, Nancy Iskander, said during the hearing that she disputes Ms. Grossman’s contention that she was advised by her attorneys not to try to speak to the victims’ parents.
She also said she saw Ms. Grossman outside the hospital emergency room that night.
“She looked me in the eye!” Ms. Iskander said, her voice rising. “You looked me in the eye. You knew they were dying.”
Prosecutors said the boys were crossing the street with their family in a marked crosswalk when they were struck by Ms. Grossman’s vehicle. Deputy District Attorney Ryan Gould told jurors in his closing argument that debris from the crash matched Ms. Grossman’s vehicle and there was “not a shred” of evidence that Grossman’s then-boyfriend—former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson—struck the children first with his black Mercedes-Benz SUV just ahead of Ms. Grossman’s vehicle, as defense attorneys contended during the trial.
In a typed letter to the judge prior to Monday’s hearing, Ms. 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.”
Ms. 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.”
They wrote that Ms. Grossman “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 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 Ms. 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 Ms. 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, Ms. 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.”
Ms. Spertus and Ms. Josephs wrote that Ms. 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.”
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