Days after arrest, owners kick down boarded-up entrance to reopen gym
BELLMAWR — It was leg day at Atilis Gym, where the scofflaw owners on Saturday kicked down the wooden boards barricading the fitness center that has been at the center of a legal fight with public health officials.
With a small crowd cheering them on, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti reopened their gym five days after being arrested on contempt of court and obstruction charges.
Neither the Attorney General's Office nor the Camden County Prosecutor's Office returned our requests for comment Saturday evening.
Last Friday, a Superior Court judge held Smith, 33, and Trumbetti, 51, in contempt after they had repeatedly violated Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders as well as court orders to remain closed except for retail sales and one-on-one workouts. The judge granted the state Department of Health's request for permission to barricade the business.
The owners vowed to remove the front door from its hinges in order to prevent authorities from locking it.
On early Monday, police arrested the duo and charged them with misdemeanor counts of contempt, obstruction and violation of a disaster control law.
On Thursday, the franchise gym's Facebook page encouraged supporters to show up Saturday.
Smith and Trumbetti have called Murphy's executive orders "oppressive" and unconstitutional. Indoor dining, nightclubs, fitness centers and theaters remain among the few businesses that are still off limits in New Jersey, which has seen a considerable decline since April in deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19.
To date, the state's regulations have withstood challenges in court. Murphy on Saturday signed another executive order extending the public health emergency declaration for the fifth time. State law requires that declaration be renewed every 30 days.
This is not Smith's first entanglement with the law. In 2008 he was sentenced to more than five years in prison for killing a 19-year-old in an intoxicated-driving crash. The family of the victim has characterized Smith's current crusade as another example of his disregard for the lives and safety of others.