Despite massive front-end damage to a Hidden Hills socialite’s Mercedes SUV and witness testimony that she hit two young brothers in Westlake Village, her lawyer is expected to tell jurors that the SUV was one of many vehicles passing through the crosswalk at the time of the deadly incident and that authorities have wrongly focused on her.
Jurors could begin to hear the competing stories as early as Friday in Rebecca Grossman’s trial on two second-degree murder counts, as well as vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run charges.
Los Angeles County prosecutors say Grossman, 60, was behind the wheel of a white Mercedes SUV that fatally struck brothers Mark and Jacob Iskander in September 2020. Authorities say she was driving as fast as 81 mph as she followed former Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, whom she had been drinking cocktails with at a nearby restaurant. Prosecutors allege that she traveled a quarter-mile after slamming into the children before her car shut down.
But Tony Buzbee, Grossman’s lead attorney and former Houston mayoral contender, says he will produce witnesses who’ll testify that multiple cars hit the boys. “The defense’s reconstruction experts will show that Grossman’s vehicle was not the first vehicle to hit the children, and another eyewitness indicated that she was also not the last vehicle that made contact with the children,” Buzbee said in a statement.
“These witness reports and video existed from the first night of the accident, and instead of trying to identify the other vehicles, the Sheriff took the easy route and focused on the driver of the only vehicle that stayed after the accident occurred, Rebecca Grossman.”
That video from a house overlooking Triunfo Canyon Road a short distance from the crash site shows several cars passing in the moments after impact.
Louis Shapiro, a well-known L.A. defense attorney, said Buzbee’s approach is a high-stakes gamble, considering that Grossman faces up to 34 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
“Unless there is forensic evidence to support a theory that another car was involved, the jury is going to see this as a desperate attempt to absolve her of liability, and it could very much haunt her at sentencing,” he said.
“Clearly, the prosecution is not willing to offer manslaughter, so it is either go hard or go home for the defense,” he said. “When you throw a Hail Mary [pass], there is a big risk of someone not catching the ball.”
Buzbee argued in court last week that sheriff’s investigators never checked Erickson’s black Mercedes SUV for damage, even though he drove through the marked crosswalk a few seconds before Grossman. Buzbee said outside court that they also never found the other vehicles that passed through the crosswalk.
“She is not guilty of any of the accusations that have been made against her. She was not impaired, she was not racing, she was not going the speed that they claim, and she never fled the scene. The fact [is] that so much evidence was concealed, destroyed or simply went missing,” Buzbee said.
Prosecutors say Grossman and Erickson were romantically involved and driving in separate SUVs from Julio’s Agave Grill to a Westlake Village home the evening of Sept. 29, 2020, when they “raced” through the crosswalk on Triunfo Canyon Road at Saddle Mountain Drive, with Erickson in the lead.
Two witnesses traveling in another vehicle testified during a preliminary hearing that they saw Erickson’s SUV speeding ahead of Grossman’s.
Jake Sands testified that the black SUV — Erickson’s — approached the crosswalk first. There, Nancy Iskander and her three sons — Mark, 11; Jacob, 8; and Zachary, 5 — were making their way across the residential street.
The driver tapped his brakes, Sands testified. “It swerved and avoided the family right before,” he told the court in 2022.
Yasamin Eftekhari said the white Mercedes — driven by Grossman — was unable to avoid the older boys, who were farther into the street. Iskander was able to grab her youngest son and dive out of the way.
“There was a family walking in the road. The white car struck the two kids in the road,” Eftekhari said. “The first child to get hit, he was up against the side [of the road]. I didn’t see the second child get hit.”
Buzbee, however, alleged that a sheriff’s investigator never checked Erickson’s vehicle after the crash and took his word in a phone interview that he was driving his 2007 Mercedes SUV at the time.
Buzbee told L.A. County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino that Erickson produced the 2007 Mercedes for examination in civil litigation after the deadly crash. The lawyer then showed a photo of a 2016 Mercedes-AMG that the retired World Series winner acquired in May 2019, alleging that it was the SUV Erickson was driving that day.
Buzbee said he would produce witnesses at trial to lay the foundation for the photo exhibit, adding that it was particularly relevant because one witness told an investigator she saw two vehicles strike the children seconds apart.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Ryan Gould said prosecutors had no evidence to support the exhibit. In fact, they didn’t even know who took the photograph that Grossman’s lawyer wanted to use.
Grossman and her defense team have a website with their version of events. After prosecutors alleged the socialite and the former Dodger were having a relationship at the time of the crash, her husband on the website acknowledged they were separated at the time but were friends.
Buzbee, a high-powered litigator who successfully defended Texas’ attorney general against impeachment last year, has revealed in pretrial motions a strategy that seeks to highlight shortcomings in the Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigation to sow reasonable doubt once the trial begins. A jury is expected to be seated this week in Van Nuys.
Erickson, 55, was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving. His case was resolved in February 2022, with a judge ordering him to make a public service announcement geared toward high school students about the importance of safe driving. Erickson has denied any wrongdoing.