Bill Gross to Contest Neighbor’s Latest Complaint About Loud Music
(Bloomberg) -- Bill Gross and his wife pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges they violated a court order to stop bothering their Southern California neighbor with excessively loud music.
A lawyer for Bill and Amy Gross told a California state judge Tuesday the newlyweds intend to prove they shouldn’t be held in contempt of court, seven months after she ordered them to stop harassing their neighbors by playing sitcom theme songs and other loud music when they aren’t outdoors.
The billionaire “Bond King” and Mark Towfiq, a millionaire, have adjacent ocean-front trophy homes on the cliffs of Laguna Beach. They’ve been feuding since last year after Towfiq complained to city officials about large white netting installed over a million-dollar piece of art in Gross’s yard. According to Towfiq, the Pimco co-founder responded by blaring TV sitcom themes, including “Gilligan’s Island,” at all hours of the day.
After a trial that featured nine days of testimony, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill ruled in December that Gross’s behavior amounted to harassment. She ordered him to stop playing loud music in his yard when he or his wife weren’t outside, and to keep at least five yards away from their neighbors. The judge set the restraining order to be in place for three years.
Both sides appeared to be on the verge of settling their dueling claims this year, but the truce appears to have ended on the evening of July 7, when Towfiq and his wife say Gross began playing loud music again after 9 p.m.
Gross and his wife, the former professional tennis player Amy Schwartz, who were wed in April, appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom with him sporting a long-sleeved golf shirt and slacks and her in a light blue silk blouse and dark pants.
After the couple were arraigned on the contempt charge, their lawyer, Jill Basinger, asked for a delay in the proceedings, saying the Grosses would be out of the country on a delayed honeymoon cruise and not returning until mid-August.
Knill then set a Sept. 13 hearing for witness testimony before she decides whether Gross and his wife violated her previous order. The judge described the proceeding as “quasi-criminal.”
Basinger said she’s going to ask the judge to modify the December court order, saying Towfiq has used it as a weapon against her clients.
Basinger said outside court that Towfiq’s call to the police on July 7 came after the Grosses had played music for just five minutes. “The judge’s order was don’t play music in an illegal way,” she said. “We believe that when the judge hears all the evidence she’ll see what the Towfiqs are up to.”
The Towfiqs have a different take on what happened.
They say that when when Laguna Beach officers arrived at Gross’s front door, neither he nor his wife answered and police were forced to try to speak to the billionaire from over the fence in Towfiq’s back yard.
“The officers informed Mr. Towfiq that the music was so loud they could hear it blaring from the busy Pacific Coast Highway,” according to an affidavit filed by Towfiq’s lawyers. Rather than lowering the music, Amy Gross “scolded the officer for the request” and the police left after 20 minutes with the loud music still playing, according to the Towfiqs.
“Unrepentant bullies” is how Chase Scolnick, an attorney for Towfiq, described the Grosses in a court filing.
Towfiq’s lawyers said they will ask Knill to consider jailing Gross. “The only thing this billionaire will understand is five days in jail for contempt of court,” they said.
Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney, confirmed that the office is reviewing the July 7 incident to determine whether to file criminal charges.
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