New Jersey gym owner once arrested, jailed for defying COVID lockdown, cleared of over 80 criminal charges
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Quick Hit:

A New Jersey gym owner, who defied COVID-19 restrictions, has been cleared of over 80 charges related to pandemic-era confrontations with the police. Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, co-owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, had kept their gym open in May 2020, despite Governor Phil Murphy's mandate to close non-essential businesses.

Key Details:

  • The gym owners were hit with scores of summonses and ordered to pay about $165,000 in fines for violating public health emergency rules.
  • Several of the charges could have landed the duo in jail for six months, according to their attorney, John McCann.
  • A municipal judge in Winslow Township dropped the charges after a nearly four-year legal battle.

Diving Deeper:

Smith and Trumbetti had racked up the summonses after they kept their workout spot open, defying the governor's mandate. At one point, police even arrested some gym members as they left the building. The charges against the owners included violating a governor's orders, operating without a mercantile license, creating a public nuisance, and disturbing the peace.

However, after a nearly four-year legal battle, a municipal judge in Winslow Township dropped the charges. "It was a just decision," McCann told The New York Post, adding that the pair were improperly charged by local authorities. "[The town] was not acting in good faith."

Neither local nor state officials decided to appeal the ruling. McCann, a well-known municipal attorney who once worked for the Bergen County Sheriff's Office, is now trying to retrieve the money the gym owners paid the state in fines. "That's a very tricky issue," McCann told The Post. "It's very, very complex. And I'm making my way through that."

During the pandemic, Smith accused the state of being selective about which businesses could stay open and which couldn't. "Telling people that liquor stores are essential but places they can come to work on their physical and mental health is not — it's just not adding up. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands," Smith said at the time.

McCann maintains that the Atilis' owners didn't make any money off gym memberships during the bulk of the pandemic. "There was no income coming in but for the GoFundMe money they were raising to fight the state," McCann said, referencing a fundraiser that brought in more than a half-million dollars.

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