On Wednesday, a judge in Orange County, California, ruled that billionaire investor Bill Gross and his wife had deliberately harassed their neighbors by repeatedly blasting loud music outside their Laguna Beach mansion and ordered them to stop.
As the Los Angeles Daily News reports, “Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill barred Gross and his partner, former professional tennis player Amy Schwartz, from playing music from speakers outside their home when no one is there.” She said the couple must comply with the local noise ordinance and remain more than 15 feet away from their next-door neighbor, Mark Towfiq, a tech entrepreneur. According to the Daily News, the restrictions remain in effect for three years.
The trouble began in July, after Towfiq had complained to the city about a net Gross installed in his backyard to protect a valuable piece of glass art. Towfiq said the net blocked the view from his oceanfront estate. He claimed Gross and Schwartz retaliated by blaring rap music and theme songs from 1960s television sitcoms, like “Gilligan’s Island” and “Green Acres,” at all hours.
Towfiq filed a civil harassment lawsuit. His neighbors countersued, claiming he was the one harassing them, alleging invasion of privacy. Both sides asked for restraining orders against the other.
— L.A. Daily News (@ladailynews) December 23, 2020
The Daily News reported on Wednesday, Judge Knill “said she didn’t believe Gross and Schwartz were unaware they were bothering Towfiq and his wife” when they amplified the catchy earworms, and:
Knill said video evidence and text messages proved Gross was attempting to harass Towfiq. She cited one text message conversation in which Towfiq asked Gross to turn the music down. Gross responded, “Peace on all fronts or we will have nightly concerts here, big boy.”
Gross testified that the timing of the text was unrelated to Towfiq’s complaint, but Knill said Gross’ explanation was “implausible.”
“This is strong evidence that the nightly concerts were planned by Gross, in some sort of retaliation against Towfiq, for whatever reason,” Knill said. “The fact that Gross appeared to be playing the music in a passive aggressive way satisfies the court that the behavior was willful.”
Gross, 76, reportedly purchased the glass sculpture that sparked the feud for $1 million.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The blue blown-glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly, whose work adorns the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, was installed by Gross and Schwartz last year near the property line they share with Towfiq and his wife on a stretch of South Coast Highway.
Towfiq testified that although the 22-foot-long installation featuring swimming marlin, fishing globes and cobalt-colored reeds “wasn’t necessarily his style,” he and his wife, Carol Nakahara, weren’t bothered by it. However, he said they were far less pleased when their neighbors in April erected a 12-foot-high netting structure to protect the sculpture during tree trimming and stormy weather – yet it rarely came down. Nakahara, on the stand, called it “legitimately like a big soccer net.”
Judge Knill’s decision ends this phase of the dispute, but both Gross and Towfiq still have pending lawsuits against one another seeking monetary damages.
The victors emerge from the courthouse. Left to right, Carol Nakahara and Mark Towfiq with their lawyers Jay Barron and Chase Scolnick of Keller/Anderle LLP. We’re still awaiting Bill Gross and team. pic.twitter.com/NxV1qyODdV
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) December 23, 2020
After Wednesday’s ruling, Gross reportedly issued a statement that said: “the result maintains the status quo.”
“We won’t play loud music because we never have,” Gross said. “But we will continue to dance the night away, Gilligan’s Island forever. Happy holidays.”
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