D.A. removes Rebecca Grossman’s prosecutors, outraging parents of murdered boys

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has taken the highly unusual step of removing the prosecutors who convicted Rebecca Grossman of double murder, outraging the parents of the two young boys she killed in a Westlake Village crosswalk.

Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s office replaced prosecutors Jamie Castro, Ryan Gould and their supervisor, Garrett Dameron, after they began preparing a motion to remove Grossman’s new attorney, James Spertus, because of a conflict of interest, according to an email by one of the prosecutors to his bosses.

Spertus also represents Asst. Dist. Atty. Diana Teran, a top advisor to Gascón recently charged with 11 felonies in connection with the illegal use of confidential sheriff’s records. Spertus has denied any wrongdoing by Teran.

The prosecutors’ removal comes at a potentially vital moment in the Grossman case as Spertus preps a motion for a new trial, which has delayed sentencing for the wealthy Grossman Burn Center co-founder until at least next month.

Grossman has been awaiting sentencing since her Feb. 23 conviction of second-degree murder in the deaths of brothers Mark and Jacob Iskander, 11 and 8, who were struck and killed in a crosswalk as Grossman sped along a residential Westlake Village street in September 2020.

The boys’ mother, Nancy Iskander — who testified at trial she lost sight of her sons as they crossed the marked walk ahead of her and two speeding SUVs barreled through the intersection — expressed outrage over the decision to remove the prosecutors and questioned why she was being made a victim again.

“This is truly shocking and disappointing,” Iskander said in a Mother’s Day interview.

Dameron echoed that sentiment in an email to D.A. Chief Deputy Joseph Iniguez.

“In my nearly 24 years in the office, this decision is shocking and unprecedented. I also believe it is contrary to professional ethics and to thwart our clear duty of candor to the court,” Dameron wrote. “At the very least, this extraordinary decision jeopardizes the successful completion of the case and the impartial administration of justice.”

During the six-week murder trial against Grossman, Teran was in constant supervisory contact with the prosecution. Last month, after Teran was charged, Gould and Castro notified the judge of the conflict because Spertus represents both Grossman and Teran.

Iskander said the decision “took me a few steps back in my healing process.” She said that instead of seeking to oust the conflicted defense attorney, the D.A.’s office is now taking away the people who delivered justice to her family.

“I am being punished for something I had nothing to do with. They choose to punish the victim,” she said. “They have a motion for a new trial. We have things that only Ryan — who knows the case so well and knows the defendant so well — can deal with.

“We were looking forward to closing the case. Sentencing was soon,” she continued. “For me, all of a sudden to have to meet another prosecutor and work with them. They don’t know my family or the boys.”

Mark Iskander, 11, and his brother Jacob Iskander, 8

Mark Iskander, 11, and his brother Jacob Iskander, 8, were killed by Rebecca Grossman.

(Courtesy of the Iskander family )

Iskander said she has asked the D.A.’s office to reverse its decision.

As the Grossman prosecution’s top boss, Teran was involved in daily strategy of the trial, according to internal district attorney’s communications reviewed by The Times.

Since the trial ended, Teran has been charged in a felony case. On April 24, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta charged her with 11 felonies in connection with the downloading of records in 2018 while working at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Teran “impermissibly used” those records after joining Gascón’s office, Bonta alleged.

Spertus, who took over Grossman’s case after her conviction, told the Daily Journal there was no conflict in his representation of both Grossman and Teran because he is adverse to the prosecution.

Dameron, however, said there is. He wrote in his email to Iniguez that the removal of the prosecutors came after a proposed motion to remove Spertus from the case, arguing that Grossman cannot waive any conflict.

Spertus’ motion for a new trial could contain an allegation of malicious prosecution — something alleged by Grossman’s former defense attorney, Tony Buzbee — and that would involve Teran’s decisions and place Spertus in direct conflict with his client, Dameron said.

He said prosecutors were given a “very vague explanation” that “had to be walled off because Diana Teran was our supervisor during a period of time of the prosecution” but said the conflict is actually with Spertus “representing both of these defendants.”

According to Dameron’s email, prosecutors “became aware of a witness who had critical information regarding Grossman’s continued efforts to obstruct justice from inside the county jail” shortly after Spertus became her attorney on March 22.

Based on recorded jailhouse telephone calls, prosecutors also were aware Grossman was trying to have her husband and daughter talk to trial witnesses to change their testimony. The jailhouse witness had information important to “preserving the integrity of our verdict and the safety of our witnesses,” Dameron wrote.

“As instructed, I sent a request to interview the witness to Teran,” Dameron wrote. “To our shock, Teran denied our request to conduct this interview. I repeatedly asked for an explanation and was not given one.”

Rebecca Grossman, second from left, with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, left, and daughter, Alexis.

Rebecca Grossman, second from left, with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, left, and daughter, Alexis.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Teran has long been represented by Spertus’ law firm. According to a 2019 deposition, she was represented by Spertus’ colleague, Samuel Josephs, during a civil case involving allegations over confidential sheriff’s records that ultimately led to last month’s criminal charges.

Spertus has insisted Teran is innocent and said the documents in question were obtained either through public court files or involved findings of dishonesty against sheriff’s deputies, which would be public record under Senate Bill 1421, California’s landmark police transparency law.

In his email, Dameron argued that if the Grossman prosecutors need to be removed because they worked with Teran, then all prosecutors who have worked with public corruption and law enforcement prosecution would also need to be replaced since Teran supervises those cases as well.

“This decision gives off the appearance that there is a greater concern for protecting other collateral players (such as the administration and Diana Teran) than seeing that justice is done and that the interests of the family of Jacob and Mark Iskander (the two little boys murdered by Grossman) are safeguarded,” Dameron wrote in the email, which concluded with him asking Iniguez to reconsider the “terrible decision.”

The move is the latest controversy in the Grossman case. In March, Gould and Castro sought to have her jailhouse privileges revoked after a series of recorded telephone calls from the Twin Towers jail to her family instructed them to release evidence that had been sealed during her double murder trial and to track down witnesses to get them to say their testimony was directed.

But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino refused to move Grossman to a part of the jail system where her mail is checked and where she would have no access to phones or visitors, except for her attorneys, saying the punishment wasn’t necessary.

In denying the motions, Brandolino warned Grossman’s new defense lawyers, led by Spertus, that going forward, any release of evidence under seal would result in financial sanctions for them and he would report them to the State Bar.

Grossman’s lawyers also successfully petitioned the judge to delay her sentencing, which had been scheduled for April, until at least June so Spertus could review the voluminous court record as he prepares for a motion for a new trial. Grossman is facing 34 years to life in prison.

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