Defense in Grossman murder trial keeps ex-Dodger Scott Erickson the center of attention

VAN NUYS, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Rebecca Grossman, left, and daughter heads to Van Nuys Courthouse West Van Nuys, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Rebecca Grossman and daughter Alexis head to the Van Nuys Courthouse on Wednesday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Attorneys for Hidden Hills socialite Rebecca Grossman have consistently maintained it was her then-lover, former Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, who first struck two young boys in a Westlake Village crosswalk, a fatal collision for which she now stands accused of murder.

A district attorney's investigator, called to testify at Grossman's trial by the defense, leveled a further charge at Erickson on Thursday — alleging he was "cold plating," or using the same license plate on two of the black Mercedes SUVs that he owns, one of which he was driving the night the boys were killed. The investigator said the practice was a felony.

But while Grossman's defense team seized on the plating issue to paint Erickson as a lawbreaker, the lead prosecutor dismissed the revelation as a years-old red herring.

Grossman, 60, is accused of driving her white Mercedes SUV at speeds reaching 81 mph on Triunfo Canyon Road in the upscale suburban L.A. neighborhood, closely following the SUV driven by Erickson.

Read more: Liquor, Valium, speed and recklessness: The D.A.'s case against Rebecca Grossman

Prosecutors allege that on Sept. 29, 2020, she went from having cocktails with Erickson at a local restaurant to racing behind him along the street, where she struck Mark and Jacob Iskander, 11 and 8, as they made their way through a marked crosswalk behind their mother and 5-year-old brother.

Grossman is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death.

Erickson told authorities he was driving his 2007 Mercedes at the time, and jurors have heard him deny on the witness stand having hit anyone.

Tony Buzbee, Grossman's lead attorney, said that Erickson was actually driving his 2016 black Mercedes GL 63 AMG, and that it struck the young boys and vaulted one of them onto the hood of Grossman's white Mercedes GLE 43. An accident reconstruction expert testifying for the defense on Thursday said that was what occurred.

Sheriff's officials never inspected Erickson's vehicle, according to testimony.

D.A. investigator Sergio Lopez testified that he was asked by his office to take a closer look at Erickson's two Mercedes, and obtained license-plate captures from the 2007 and 2016 vehicles showing they had the same Nevada license plate.

"The issue with Mr. Erickson is using the same license for two vehicles," Lopez said when questioned by Buzbee. The investigator said such fake plates were easily obtained — he said they could be bought on Etsy.

Lopez testified that Erickson was "cold-plating to avoid paying registration on the 2016 model."

Prosecutor Jamie Castro called Lopez's testimony a red herring. Lopez confirmed that Erickson's alleged cold-plating had occurred long before the 2020 incident.

"It has nothing to do with the collision?" Castro asked.

"Correct," Lopez replied.

Buzbee then jumped up and asked, "Where is Scott Erickson?"

"No idea," Lopez said.

A lawyer representing Erickson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jurors on Thursday also heard from a teenager who was playing tennis in Westlake Village on the night of the collision. Dorsa Khoddami recounted hearing "alarming" sounds from a nearby roadway, followed by a sudden hush.

"I pieced together it was a car accident," Khoddami testified, describing how she and her mother, a physician, dashed from the tennis courts to the accident scene.

Read more: Rebecca Grossman's doctor husband defends wife accused of killing 2 children

She said they arrived to find Nancy Iskander, the boys' mother, shoeless. The teen testified that she attempted to hand the woman some shoes they had retrieved from the street.

"She started screaming, 'Those are my son's shoes!' And I immediately put them back," said Khoddami, who was 16 at the time. "My mom described it as a war zone."

Buzbee asked Khoddami whether she had heard two impacts, which could reinforce the defense argument that Erickson's vehicle had struck the children first.

Khoddami testified that she'd heard an "alarming and loud" sound and then "another sound occurred," and then "everyone paused."

Authorities found Grossman about three-tenths of a mile from the crosswalk after a fuel cut-off safety system caused her vehicle to grind to a halt. She told a responding deputy, as well as a 911 operator, that she did not know what had happened.

The prosecution has said Grossman was not as ignorant to the night's events as she claimed, pointing to a text that a friend testified Grossman had sent her in June 2022, nearly two years after the boys' deaths, in which she said she'd seen Nancy Iskander — who was wearing inline skates — falling and had turned her head in the woman's direction for a brief second or two.

An expert witness, however, bolstered the defense's argument that Grossman was unaware of any impacts. William Broadhead, an engineering expert on car airbags and restraints, told jurors Thursday that drivers are stunned by the force of an airbag when it deploys.

Defense lawyers wanted to trigger an airbag inside the courtroom as a demonstration for jurors, a move that was rejected by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino, who said it could be shown on video. The judge did say he would allow the controlled firing of a seat-belt pretensioner, which automatically tightens the belt in a collision, but safety monitors for the Sheriff's Department nixed that idea.

"It stuns you. ... It is confusing if you don't know you're in an accident," said Broadhead, describing the punch of the Mercedes dashboard and knee airbags and the noise of the belt pretensioner. "You don't know if it is a bomb or a sniper."

Read more: 'I wish I had not looked away': Grossman's texts show she was distracted before crash

The witness said he would not expect that striking a pedestrian would cause the bags to inflate. Grossman's "airbags fired defectively," he concluded.

The prosecution and defense sparred over the source of Grossman's bruises, which Broadhead said were a result of being injured by an airbag.

Prosecutor Castro confronted him with a series of text messages the Hidden Hills woman had sent to a masseuse 10 days before the accident. The messages included photos and said, "Next time don't massage too hard. You need to lighten up. I have bruises."

Buzbee, Grossman's attorney, belittled the testimony, saying,"We just learned something here: Nicole has strong hands."

He said images showed bruises on his client's face, arm and chest that were not there before the night of the collision.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.