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California socialite gets 15 years to life for killing 2 boys in hit-and-run

JUAN CARLO/THE STAR/ USA TODAY NETWORK
                                Dr. Peter Grossman walks out of Van Nuys Courthouse with his wife, Rebecca Grossman, on Jan. 23. A judge today sentenced Rebecca Grossman to 15 years in prison for the murders of two brothers she struck while speeding through a Westlake Village crosswalk four years ago, saying her actions were “reckless and unquestionably negligent.”
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JUAN CARLO/THE STAR/ USA TODAY NETWORK

Dr. Peter Grossman walks out of Van Nuys Courthouse with his wife, Rebecca Grossman, on Jan. 23. A judge today sentenced Rebecca Grossman to 15 years in prison for the murders of two brothers she struck while speeding through a Westlake Village crosswalk four years ago, saying her actions were “reckless and unquestionably negligent.”

LOS ANGELES >> A judge today sentenced Rebecca Grossman to 15 years in prison for the murders of two brothers she struck while speeding through a Westlake Village crosswalk four years ago, saying her actions were “reckless and unquestionably negligent.”

After hearing Nancy Iskander, the mother of 11-year-old Mark Iskander and 8-year-old Jacob Iskander, angrily ask for the sentence to reflect the deaths of both her boys, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino sentenced the wealthy philanthropist to two concurrent 15-years-to-life sentences, plus three years for fleeing the scene of the fatal crash that would run concurrently with the two other sentences.

“She is a coward,” Iskander said of Grossman.

Appearing in court with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and wearing a brown shirt over a white T-shirt and slacks, Grossman agreed to pay $47,161.89 in restitution to the Iskander family. Her defense lawyers say the co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation had already donated $25,000 for funeral expenses.

The sentencing ends a nearly four-year criminal saga that saw her refuse to accept responsibility for the boys’ deaths and try to manipulate the case from behind bars even after her conviction.

“I never saw anyone. I never saw anyone,” Grossman said during her sentencing. “I would have driven into a brick wall …. I don’t know why God did not take my life.”

She said she went into a state of denial after the collision and shut down.

Looking at Nancy Iskander, she said tearfully, “My pain is a fraction of your pain.”

After a six-week trial filled with dramatic testimony, Grossman was convicted in February of two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of hit and run with fatality in the September 2020 killings of the two children.

The boys’ mother testified during trial how her older children had been walking ahead of her and her youngest son in the marked crosswalk on Triunfo Canyon Road when she heard engines roaring. Two sport utility vehicles were barreling toward them.

Iskander put up her right hand in a desperate effort to stop the speeding vehicles and dived for safety, grabbing her 5-year-old son. Her next memory, she said, is of Jacob and Mark crumpled on the roadway.

Grossman was driving behind Scott Erickson, a former Dodgers player, who earlier in the day had been drinking cocktails with her at a nearby restaurant. She was driving as fast as 81 mph and traveled another half-mile after slamming into the children, according to evidence presented at trial.

Prosecutors Habib Balian, Ryan Gould and Jamie Castro told the judge that Grossman showed no remorse: “The defendant’s actions from September 29, 2020, through today show a complete lack of remorse and narcissistic superiority that leads to only one conclusion, that she is not deserving of any leniency.”

In pressing for the maximum sentence allowed, the prosecutors argued that Grossman “continually refused to take responsibility for her criminal behavior and has refused to take responsibility for the murders of Mark and Jacob Iskander. She has lived a life of privilege and clearly felt that her wealth and notoriety would buy her freedom.”

More than a dozen of the Iskanders’ friends and family members came before the judge today to describe the hole left after the boys’ deaths and ask that Grossman receive a lengthy prison term.

Pastor Chamie Delkeskamp of Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks said the fatal crash scarred the entire community, noting that many children are now scared to go into a crosswalk. Probation for Grossman “would be a slap in the face of justice,” Delekeskamp said.

Former babysitter Natalie Nashed noted that the “senseless crime … took two innocent souls.”

Sherif Iskander, the boys’ uncle, said Grossman — whom he described as self-centered and entitled — “tried to get away with murder.”

“To this day, she never apologized to our family,” he said.

Joyce Ghobrial, the boys’ grandmother, told the court: “I am just living the rest of my life to die grieving.” As her voice faltered, Nancy Iskander stood and touched her mother’s back to comfort her.

Grossman began to weep as parent Brandon Wolfe said she had tried to manipulate the system and avoid accountability. “No parent should ever have to bury their child — let alone two of them,” he said.

When Bodie Wallace, who was Jacob’s best friend, spoke, Grossman buckled over in her seat, sobbing. The 13-year-old said the song “10,000 Reasons” makes him sad now because he wonders about the “10,000 reasons why Ms. Grossman did not say ‘sorry’ right away.”

With many in the courtroom visibly upset by the boy’s message, including a radio reporter who had tears streaming down her cheeks, the judge called a brief recess, saying he was doing so for the court reporter, who also was crying.

Grossman’s defense attorneys, led by James Spertus, had argued the mother of two, who had no prior criminal record, should be spared prison time. They had asked the judge to consider probation with a suspended sentence or a shorter prison term.

Her lawyers painted a far different picture of Grossman, portraying her as a “humanitarian” who worked to save female burn victims and victims of domestic violence.

While saying the Iskanders’ loss is “incalculable,” Spertus wrote in a sentencing memorandum last week that the Grossmans have experienced a different loss: the loss of a mother to her two children, and Grossman herself has lost her purpose in life and “bears overwhelming sadness, despair and regret for her role in the tragedy.”

He attached several letters from Grossman’s family and friends, including one from Grossman’s son, Nick, who said, “Nothing compares to what the Iskanders are going through, but ever since the accident, it’s just felt like the world hates my mom and everyone is against our family.”

He addressed the court today, saying, “My mother is not the bad person the media has painted.”

Grossman’s legal team played a 30-minute video that began with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, saying: “We don’t compare our pain to theirs.” The video included daughter Alexis relating how her mother had been abandoned by her father and molested by her own mother’s boyfriend, suffering “every kind of abuse by the age of 13.” Son Nick described his mother as a “very spiritual person.”

Grossman dropped out of college because she couldn’t afford it, her husband said, and became a flight attendant before starting her own medical device business. He also recounted the story of a badly burned girl from Afghanistan who was 10 when they took her into their home.

“I give my heart and love to Rebecca,” the now-adult burn patient, Zubaida, said in the video. “She is my mother.”

But Nancy Iskander rejected the case for Grossman’s compassion. She said when she was in the hospital and a doctor outside the emergency room asked her about disconnecting Jacob’s life support, she saw Grossman there.

“She looked me in the eye,” the grieving mother said, with tears in her eyes and steel in her voice. “That was the moment to say something.”

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