An Orange County Superior Court judge told attorneys Wednesday she will rule next week on dueling requests for restraining orders filed by billionaire “bond king” Bill Gross and his Laguna Beach neighbor in a dispute over Gross’ choice of music playing in his yard.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill, who heard closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, said she would issue her ruling on the restraining orders next Wednesday.
Mark Towfiq sued Gross and his “life partner” Amy Schwartz, a former tennis pro, alleging that the two repeatedly and loudly play TV show theme music from such shows as “Gilligan’s Island,” “Green Acres” and “M*A*S*H,” to harass him for filing a complaint against Gross for erecting a large net to protect a pricey outdoor art installation. Towfiq alleged that the net obscures his view.
Gross, founder of Pacific Investment Management Co., filed a cross-complaint alleging Towfiq is “peeping” on his neighbor and his girlfriend and harassing them with smart phone videos of the two.
“There is a pattern here. It is intentional and demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence,” Towfiq’s attorney, Chase Scolnick, alleged.
The music the PIMCO founder and Schwartz played was “so loud it could drown out the noise of” Pacific Coast Highway, Scolnick said, adding it was sometimes played when no one was at the Gross residence.
“It was completely unnecessary to play outdoor music when no one is there,” Scolnick said. “Harassment is not a legitimate purpose. Extortion is not a legitimate purpose, and that is exactly what they were doing.”
Towfiq and his wife have “had to leave their home it was so stressful — even during Covid,” Scolnick said. “They can no longer use their own bedroom. They’re prisoners in their own house.”
The two have suffered from sleep deprivation and loss of appetite, Scolnick said.
When Towfiq “wouldn’t back down” and began “documenting” the raucous music, which sometimes had the rapper 50 Cent on the playlist, Gross “became further enraged,” Scolnick said.
“He told Mr. Towfiq, `I’m going to sue you,”’ Scolnick said. “And that’s what he did.”
Scolnick argued there was no evidence of his client stalking or spying on Gross and his girlfriend.
Scolnick argued for a three-year restraining order that would prohibit Gross and Schwartz from playing music outdoors when no one is outside of the house and would compel them to respond to any noise complaints.
G. Jill Basinger, the attorney for Gross and Schwartz, disputed that the music was played “day in and day out.” She said there was only one time “Gilligan’s Island” was played past the city’s nightly curfew, and it was at 11 p.m., she said.
“They like music, they play music,” Basinger said. “They dance to music… There is no evidence this music is loud.”
Basinger said that when a video of the music playing was shown in court during the hearings, “they had to crank it up” to be heard.
Basinger also denied that Gross and Schwartz were retaliating against Towfiq because of the complaint about the net.
“We believe it will permitted” by the city eventually soon, Basinger said. “The permitting is happening.”
Basinger argued that even if the judge granted the restraining order, then it “should go away” when the net is permitted.
“It’s not about `Gilligan’s Island’ or `Green Acres,”’ Basinger said. “They don’t want any music played in their yard, but, I’m sorry, that’s not what the law is, what the code is … They play music they like.”
Towfiq has surveillance cameras that can document any abuses, so it was unnecessary for the neighbor to take videos of the couple with his smart phone, Basinger argued.
“He stands there and takes pictures of them in the pool,” Basinger said. “The neighbor gawks at them, always behind an iPhone.”
Basinger discounted as “ludicrous” Towfiq’s claims that he was advised by police to document evidence of the dispute.
Basinger asked for a restraining order barring Towfiq from videotaping his neighbors with his iPhone.
“This is a neighbor dispute that has gone completely out of proportion,” Basinger said.