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New Jersey gym owners arrested after repeatedly defying COVID shutdown orders

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iStock/svetikdBy: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — The two owners of a New Jersey gym were arrested on Monday morning for continuing to operate their business in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 orders for indoor workout facilities to remain closed.

Ian Smith, 33, and Frank Trumbetti, 51, owners of Atilis Gym in the Camden County town of Bellmawr, were taken into custody at their business, where they have been staying since last week, officials said. They were arrested when they attempted to open their doors again.

Smith of Delanco Township and Trumbetti of Williamstown were each charged with fourth-degree contempt, obstruction and violation of a disaster control act, according to Acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill S. Mayer. Both were released with disorderly person summonses, Mayer said in a statement to ABC News.

After being released, Smith issued a statement on Facebook saying, “Welcome to America 2020, where feeding your family and standing up for your Constitutional rights is illegal.”

“They took Frank and I away and boarded up our private place of business,” Smith said, adding a video of him and Trumbetti being handcuffed outside the gym. “This is gonna be fun in court. If this doesn’t alarm you, you’re part of the problem. Please share and repost, let’s make these idiots answer for their power trip.”

The arrests come after New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert T. Lougy issued a court order on Friday for Trumbetti and Smith to vacate the gym and cease operating in defiance of Murphy’s executive orders intended to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

But Mayer said the men allegedly defied Lougy’s order within hours of its being issued.

“From July 24 through July 27, a number of individuals were observed entering and using the gym, a direct violation of the court order,” Mayer’s statement reads.

Smith and Trumbetti were arrested and taken to the Bellmawr Police Department for processing when they refused a request by police to voluntarily leave the gym, according to Mayer.

Lougy’s order authorized the state health department to not only put locks on the gym’s doors but to also erect barriers over the entrance to ensure compliance with Governor Murphy’s order.

Following Lougy’s decision, Christopher Arzberger, an attorney for the gym owners, told reporters that Smith and Trumbetti were “disappointed that this motion for contempt was granted.”

“However, we do respect the judge’s decision and will be taking all necessary steps to see if there is an issue of appeal here,” he said. “We understand our clients’ concerns. Small businesses have been under fire lately and we want to make sure all small businesses have an opportunity to be heard.”

In a video posted on Facebook on Friday evening, Smith said he and Trumbetti planned to stay inside the gym in defiance of the order.

“We will not be backing down under any circumstances,” Smith said while wearing a ball cap reading “Lions Not Sheep” and a T-shirt with the words “Make America Lift Again.”

He said Lougy’s contempt of court order was based on the prosecution’s “extremely weak” case.

“It was based on circumstantial evidence and had nothing directly tying us to a violation of Murphy’s executive orders,” Smith said. “However, it still went through because that’s what Murphy wants and that’s what Murphy gets.”

Since mid-May, Atilies Gym has become a rallying point for people against Murphy’s orders, which were issued in March. More than 200 people showed up to support the first attempt to reopen the gym on May 18, waving American flags and chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” as the doors opened. At the time, police issued the first of several $2,000 citations for violating the rules.

Smith and Trumbetti said they had taken precautions prior to opening by limiting the number of members allowed inside to work out, implementing social distancing rules and asking members to wear protective face masks.

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