NJ gym owners who defied Governor Murphy’s coronavirus arrest orders arrested for contempt

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A southern New Jersey gymnasium was closed on Monday and its two owners arrested, escalating a battle over the two men’s refusal to comply with Governor Phil Murphy’s coronavirus restrictions.

On Friday, a judge ordered Atilis gym owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti to leave and cease operations in Bellmawr, NJ

They were charged Monday with disobeying the order, Camden County Acting District Attorney Jill Mayer said.

Atilis Gym co-owners Frank Trumbetti, center-right, and Ian Smith, center, react after meeting a police officer outside their gymnasium in Bellmawr, NJ on Monday, May 18, 2020. The New Jersey gymnasium reopened early Monday , defying a state order that shuts down non-essential businesses to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

She said Smith, 33, of Delanco Township, and Trumbetti, 51, of Williamstown, were charged with one count of fourth degree contempt, one count of obstruction and one count of violation of a disaster control act.

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The contempt charge is an offense punishable by up to 18 months in prison. The other two charges were summons from disorderly people.

“From July 24 to July 27, a number of individuals were observed entering and using the gymnasium, a direct violation of the court order,” Mayer said. “Police said both owners refused to leave the gym when asked, which led to charges.”

Smith and Trumbetti were brought to the Bellmawr Police Department, charged and released.

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Murphy has eased coronavirus restrictions on some businesses, but not gyms.

Smith told Fox & Friends on Saturday that there was no reason to keep them closed.

“We can operate our business safely and responsibly,” he said. “We have shown it to be true. We haven’t had a single reported COVID case and we have everyone’s records here, ”he added. “So we’re not backing down from this one. ”

Smith’s attorney, James Mermigis, told the Newark Star-Ledger that the gym was blocked off by authorities on Monday and owners did not have access to enter.

He said he didn’t know what Smith and Trumbetti would do next.

Mermigis insisted that keeping New Jersey gyms closed was “unconstitutional,” according to the newspaper.

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“I think the governor is too ambitious and I think it has gone too far,” he said.

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