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May 14, 2024

DA transfers Grossman murder case after internal conflict allegation

The day after the state Attorney General filed criminal charges against a key aide to the District Attorney, prosecutors in the Grossman case said there was a conflict because the two share a defense attorney.

Post-trial proceedings in the high-profile murder case against socialite Rebecca Grossman were transferred to another division in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office Monday following allegations of a "perceived internal conflict" because Grossman's attorney signed on to defend a former aide to DA George Gascón who is charged with 11 felonies.

A statement from the DA's office said that Habib Balian, assistant head deputy of the Major Crimes Division, would take over responsibility for the case against Grossman, who is awaiting sentencing. Balian has been with the district attorney's office for 25 years, 13 in the Major Crimes Division.

James W. Spertus is defending Grossman and Los Angeles County Assistant District Attorney Diana Teran, who was charged last month with improperly accessing police personnel files. He called the conflict claims a distraction from the motion for a new trial that he filed Monday in the Grossman case.

"Ms. Teran is not adverse in any manner to Ms. Grossman, and Ms. Grossman is not adverse to Ms. Teran. The cases have nothing to do with one another. Ms. Teran is not supervising Ms. Grossman's case and is facing meritless charges that are unrelated to Ms. Grossman's case," Spertus said.

The day after Attorney General Rob Bonta filed charges against Teran, Ryan Gould and Jamie L. Castro, the deputy district attorneys who prosecuted Grossman, filed a notice of potential conflict with Spertus' presence on the case. They wrote that Teran was in the chain of command of prosecutors assigned to the Grossman case.

The charges against Teran date back to 2018 when she was a constitutional policing advisor at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Bonta alleged Teran "accessed computer data including numerous confidential peace officer files," and then "impermissibly used that data" at the District Attorney's office in 2021. Each charge of breaching California Penal Code 502(c)(2) comes with a potential sentence of one to three years of incarceration and a fine of $5,000.

Spertus has said Teran used the records to maintain the DA's Brady List, a database of law enforcement officers accused of misconduct. He said the documents were public records and that they were used in an official and legal capacity.

The trial attorneys, Jamie Castro and Ryan Gould, will remain on the case and assist the Major Crimes Division in the Grossman matter, according to the DA's office. Chief Deputy District Attorney Joseph Iniguez made clear that the matter's transfer to a different division was only precautionary.

"Ms. Teran previously was in the chain of command of the [DUI Training and Prosecution] Unit; however, she at no point had oversight or involvement with the Major Crimes Division," Iniguez said in a statement.

Grossman struck and killed two young brothers, Mark and Jacob Iskander, in a crosswalk in Westlake Village in 2020. A jury in February found her guilty of two counts of murder. Sentencing is scheduled for June. The People of the State of California v. Rebecca Grossman, LA093990 (L.A. Super. filed December 30, 2020).


Antoine Abou-Diwan

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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