NJ Gym Owners who Defied COVID-19 Restrictions Arrested for Contempt

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
July 28, 2020Updated: July 28, 2020

Two New Jersey gym owners were arrested and charged on July 27 after they refused to comply with Gov. Phil Murphy’s CCP virus restrictions.

The owners of Atilis gym—Ian Smith, 33, and Frank Trumbetti, 51—were charged Monday after disobeying a judge’s orders on Friday to cease operations and vacate the premises in Bellmawr, New Jersey, said acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill Mayer.

The pair were charged with one count of fourth-degree contempt, one count of obstruction, and one count of violation of a disaster control act, Mayer said. If found guilty of contempt, they each face a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Delanco Township resident Smith and Trumbetti, of Williamstown, were taken to the Bellmawr Police Department at around 5:30 a.m. Monday where they were charged and later released.

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

CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions on gyms have not been eased in the state, which is one of the hardest hit by the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Gyms and other businesses were order to close on March 21, however some businesses have since been able to resume operations.

News of the pair’s arrest comes after Smith over the weekend said that there is no reason for Murphy to keep gyms closed in the state.

“We can operate our business safely, responsibly,” Smith told “Fox & Friends” on Saturday. “We have shown that to be true. We haven’t had a single case of COVID reported and we have everybody’s records here.”

“So, we’re not backing down from this one.”

Smith’s defense lawyer, James Mermigis, has argued that the Democratic governor is “overreaching.”

“I do believe this has gone too far,” Mermigis told the Newark-based Star-Ledger.

New Jersey has issued an incoming travel advisory that all individuals entering from states with a significant spread of COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days after leaving that state.

Under the 14-day quarantine travel advisory announced by the governors of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, individuals traveling to or returning to New Jersey from states—currently 31—with increasing rates of COVID-19 are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes travel by train, bus, car, plane, and any other method of transportation.

According to the state’s department of health, as of Tuesday morning, more than 179,812 people in New Jersey have been infected with COVID-19, and at least 13,884 people have died.