Grossman trial pushed back until 2024

Defendant accuses prosecutors of ‘dragging their feet’

The scene at Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive in Westlake Village shortly after the September 2020 incident. Acorn file photo

“Reluctantly, yes.”

With these words, Rebecca Grossman waived her right to a trial until Jan. 16, 2024—the new start date for jury selection in the delay-ridden, double-murder case against her, stemming from the traffic collision that claimed the lives of young Mark and Jacob Iskander as they crossed a Westlake Village street with their mother and brother in Sept. 2020.

Grossman took the waiver, cementing the latest continuance of her trial, during a June 14 hearing at Van Nuys Courthouse West—a year after she was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and felony hit-and-run driving causing death. Prosecutors say she crashed into the Iskander boys in her speeding Mercedes and attempted to flee the scene, and they say impairment by alcohol and prescription medication was a factor.

“It pains me to have to put this over again,” said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino, informed after a break that a surprise understanding had just been reached between the defense and the prosecution. “But given the agreement, I’m willing to do so.”

The gavel comes down

For months, the two sides played a blame game over discovery—the sharing of evidence before a trial—with each accusing the other of withholding information or introducing new evidence late in the process. For the most part, Brandolino let this conflict play out.

The L.A. County deputy district attorneys prosecuting the case asked for another continuance at the June 14 hearing, arguing that they needed more time to review evidence that the judge recently ordered the defense to turn over. Grossman’s lawyers, led by high-profile Houston litigator Tony Buzbee, said they opposed the postponement.

“We have overwhelmingly done 25 times what they have done, and we have no burden (of proof) in the case,” Buzbee told the judge, demanding that he exclude three expert witnesses for the prosecution, including an accident reconstructionist, whose reports the DAs say are not yet complete: “You have to draw the line here.”

Prosecutors replied that the delay in providing reports by these experts, hired in response to defense witnesses, was due to the defense’s own obstructionism. “We have had to beg, come to court and claw out any discovery from the defense. . . . Every single piece of discovery we have gotten from the defense has come via a court order,” Deputy DA Ryan Gould said.

Brandolino—who had declined to grant a delay previously, saying he wanted the trial to go ahead—said, “I think the people have complied with all their obligations. . . . I don’t think (they) have been inappropriate or untimely in any of the discovery that they’ve provided.”

With the judge declining to grant either the prosecution request for a continuance or the defense motion to exclude the expert witnesses, the stage was set for a deal.

One of Grossman’s lawyers, Ryan Pigg, announced the agreement for a six-month postponement to the court, citing “serious constitutional concerns” relating to due process and the delay in obtaining the prosecution’s expert reports.

Discovery will continue, with a final deadline for disclosure of all witnesses and evidence in the second week of November.

Waiting game

Asked why the defense accepted a continuance, Buzbee said, “It was clear that the court intended to let the prosecution use an expert they have never properly disclosed. This way we will now have time to prepare for whatever this new expert for the state may have to say.”

“My defense team was adamant about keeping deadlines for discovery . . . to keep both sides moving forward as best we can,” said Rebecca Grossman in a recent interview with The Acorn. “We were ready to go to trial July 5. The delay is more beneficial for the prosecution than for us.”

“I just don’t understand why they chose to charge someone with murder and never, until almost three years later, decided to actually hire a fully trained expert in accident reconstruction, for which they are clearly dragging their feet to provide this new report,” Grossman said.

Some expert testimony on accident reconstruction was part of the prosecution case at the preliminary hearing. DAs have said they were ready for trial before discovery materials showed earlier this year that the defense had adopted a more extensive strategy that would have to be rebutted, including use of the new accident reconstructionist.

Emotions run high

In a statement, the mother of the victims expressed her anguish at having to wait additional months for the trial to begin.

“I am absolutely crushed, more so than any time before,” Nancy Iskander said. “I can’t stop crying.”

Iskander’s sister, Miriam Guirguis, said the delays and the stress of attending more court dates are adding to the family’s pain. The youngest boy, Zachary, witnessed the accident and suffers from trauma, she said.

“While my sister is in weekly therapy with her child and mourning the loss of her kids, the defendant has been granted the right to drive again and is living her normal daily life now,” Guirguis said.

Grossman maintains that the truth about the accident is not yet publicly understood, and said, “I’ll never be free to go about a normal life for the remainder of my days on earth.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not grieve for the parents of Mark and Jacob, pray to the boys and pray for reconciliation,” she said.

Grossman has previously spoken of having suicidal thoughts since the accident. “I’m only here because of my children, and I don’t say that lightly,” she said. “I don’t feel this way because of guilt, it is primarily because of this unbearable weight of sadness that I feel for Nancy and Karim Iskander. There isn’t anything I would not do to ease their suffering.”

Grossman’s husband, prominent plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Grossman, was present at the hearing, along with their daughter Alexis. Before the proceedings began, the prosecution served Alexis, a potential witness in the trial, with a subpoena.