Murder charges upheld against Hidden Hills socialite Rebecca Grossman

VAN NUYS, CA-APRIL 25, 2022: Rebecca Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, leaves Van Nuys Courthouse during a break from her preliminary hearing. Grossman is charged with murder and other counts stemming from a crash in Westlake Village that left two young brothers dead. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Rebecca Grossman leaves the Van Nuys Courthouse during a break in her preliminary hearing. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Wednesday declined to dismiss murder charges against Hidden Hills socialite Rebecca Grossman, whose vehicle allegedly struck two boys in a crosswalk while it was going more than 70 mph.

Judge Joseph Brandolino rejected a motion to dismiss two counts of murder, finding there was probable cause to determine that Grossman acted with implied malice when her vehicle sped in a 45-mph zone and struck youngsters Mark and Jacob Iskander in a marked Westlake Village crosswalk.

To get a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutor Ryan Gould must prove that Grossman acted with implied malice and knew the act of driving more than 70 mph in a residential area was dangerous to human life.

The judge found she met the physical standard with her actions but said whether she had a mental state for the crime to be murder was a "closer call" with a hard test. She also faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death.

The judge said after reading 1,000 pages of the preliminary hearing transcript, it was clear that Grossman not only had been driving 73 mph through the crosswalk after consuming alcohol, but also had been familiar with the area and knew it often had pedestrians. He also said that the crosswalk was clearly marked and that she closely following a friend in her SUV.

But Brandolino disagreed with Judge Shellie Samuels, who oversaw the preliminary hearing, on one point. "I don't believe the evidence shows she saw the children," he said.

A sign shows an image of Mark Iskander, 11, left, and his brother Jacob Iskander, 8
A sign shows an image of Mark Iskander, 11, left, and his brother Jacob, 8, outside the Van Nuys Courthouse. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Nancy Iskander, mother of Mark and Jacob, who dove into the street in hopes of preventing her children from being hit, said she was "very thankful, very blessed all the charges were kept." She said the proceedings represented two years of her family's suffering. "Enough is enough," she said, shedding tears after the hearing.

Jonathan Schneller, one of Grossman's attorneys, tried repeatedly throughout the hearing to convince the judge that Grossman's actions were like those of thousands of Californians who drive dangerously. She committed "undeniably dangerous conduct," he said, but would a reasonable person believe it would lead to murder?

He noted Grossman already faces additional counts of vehicular manslaughter that carry a six-year prison term. Under the law, he said, implied-malice murder is like shooting a gun into a crowded room.

Deputy Dist. Atty Gould reminded the judge before the ruling that Grossman "floored it" on the suburban street around 7 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2020, after drinking with her friend Erickson at Julio's in Westlake Village. When she hit Mark, 11, and Jacob, 8, walking with the mother and sibling, "she doesn't come back to the scene. She doesn't render aid."

Nancy Iskander, center, is consoled by a friend
Nancy Iskander, center, is consoled by a friend outside Van Nuys Courthouse. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Gould noted that Grossman's blood alcohol level was 0.08%, the legal limit for intoxication in California.

Grossman faces 34 years to life in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty and has been out of jail for 20 months on $2-million bail.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.