Gym owners who defied Murphy’s orders arrested Monday morning
BELLMAWR — The owners of the borough's Atilis Gym — who have defied Gov. Murphy's shutdown orders by opening the gym to customers over the last several weeks — were arrested at their business early Monday morning.
A judge on Friday found the owners, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, in contempt of court and granted the state permission to lock or barricade the gym. The owners vowed to remove the doors and remain at the gym.
Smith, 33, of Delanco Township, and Trumbetti, 51, of Williamstown, were each charged with one count of fourth-degree contempt, one count of obstruction, and one count of violation of a disaster control Act, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said Monday morning. The charges are disorderly persons offenses.
“After Atilis Gym refused to comply with multiple criminal citations and Superior Court orders, including a contempt of court order issued Friday, today law enforcement entered the premises to ensure closure of the gym and to abate the public health risks," the AG's office said in a statement emailed to the Townsquare News Network. "As the Attorney General previously said, the state wishes it had not come to this, but the gym refused to comply even with a contempt order.”
The Attorney General’s Office, pointing to the owners’ own words in the press and on social media, as well as a detective’s observations of business as usual at the gym on Wednesday, had asked the judge to shut down the gym based on the owners “flagrantly and wantonly … exhibiting open contempt and derision for health officials and the court.”
The owners' attorney, Jim Mermigis, told the Townsquare News Network the two were arrested between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. He said that acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill Mayer told him they will be issued a complaint today and released.
"I would assume for violation of the executive order that's still in place five, six months later. In addition there was a court order so maybe they're arresting them for contempt of that court order," Mermigis said.
Gov. Phil Murphy issued executive orders in late March — four months ago — shutting down most public-facing businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. As hospitalization and daily death rates have slowed, the governor has removed or loosened several restrictions, allowing for retail to reopen and for restaurants to offer outdoor dining. But he's said repeatedly gyms — with lots of indoor, stationary activity and heavy breathing — will be difficult to justify opening soon.
A recent executive orders has allowed gyms and similar facilities to open only for one-on-one training.
BJ Dowlen, an author, posted to Facebook video that has since been taken down showing police pulling up to the gym. She estimated that about 20 vehicles from Bellmawr police and the Camden County Sheriff's Office, including a K-9 unit arrived just before dawn.
"Well, this was a first. I stayed the night in the gym writing, my book clients Ian & Frank were just waking up, I’m gathering my computer & notebooks, just waiting for the guys to come out for a few final questions, and then a SWARM of Camden County Sheriffs & local Bellmawr police (with K-9 units waiting in a vehicle) come bursting thru the door....to me, sitting there, writing, by myself," Dowlen wrote on her Facebook page.
CBS Philly was first to report the arrest based on Dowlen's posts.
Smith and Trumbetti told Fox and Friends on Saturday they are digging in on defying the order.
"We have two weeks’ worth of clothing in here. And, we will not be leaving unless we are arrested or unless the state backs down. We have had enough of this," Smith said.
The gym owners have said several times since first opening in defiance of the governor's orders in May that they believe they can operate safely, with rules in place to encourage social distancing and proper hygiene.
They said they have nicknamed the gym "A.M.A.Z." or an "Anti-Murphy Autonomous Zone."