Charges Dropped Against New Jersey Gym Owner Who Defied Strict COVID Lockdown Rules

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 - 11:00 PM

Authored by Katabella Roberts via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym in New Jersey, at a Freedom Plaza rally in Washington on Dec. 12, 2020. (The Epoch Times)

The owner of a gym in New Jersey who shot to national attention after defying COVID-19 restrictions by keeping his gym open has had all charges against him dropped.

Ian Smith, the co-owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, said in a statement on the social media platform X on May 18 that the more than 80 charges against him and the gym’s co-owner Frank Trumbetti have been dropped with prejudice, meaning they cannot be revisited or refiled.

Among the charges levied against the two men by the state were violations of a governor’s order, public nuisance, disturbing the peace, and operating without a license.

“The support we received locally, nationally, and internationally for our stand is something I will be forever grateful for,” Mr. Smith said. “With that being said, I am thrilled to announce that we have achieved a major victory in the long, hard fight against the State.”

Mr. Smith added that the “victory opens the battlefield again and gives us options to continue to push back and bring justice to the treasonous actions of Phil Murphy and his lackies [sic],” referencing the New Jersey Governor.

He further thanked his “fearless attorneys,” adding that “some of the most high profile attorneys around the country ran from our case—knowing it would be a long, hard road and would make them a target of the stare.”

“Again, thank you to all who supported us. We could not have done it without you ... Nobody is coming to save you, save yourself. Spit on your hands and hoist the black flag. No quarter,” he concluded.

Gym Owners Rack Up Millions in Fines

Mr. Smith and Mr. Trumbetti racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines—including a $15,000 per day fine—for keeping their gym open in defiance of a state-wide order instructing non-essential businesses to close during the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020.

The two men had argued that they had implemented a range of safety protocols at the gym and had only found a single case of the virus that could be traced back to the health facility, despite receiving upward of 84,000 visits.

However, state officials held steady with the fines, and in December 2021, Mr. Smith said they amounted to more than $1.2 million for violating the public health emergency rules, although he stressed he had no intention of paying them.

The two men were later arrested and charged on multiple counts, including one count of fourth-degree contempt, one count of obstruction, and one count of violation of a disaster control act, among others.

Despite the mounting charges against them, the businessman filed a federal lawsuit against the state accusing Mr. Murphy, along with then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and other New Jersey police officials accusing them of violating their constitutional rights by forcing them to shut down their business.

The Epoch Times has contacted the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for comment.

Mr. Smith’s legal win comes after he tried to run for Congress in 2022, challenging two-term Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.).

At the time, the gym owner said he planned to run on a platform focused on “liberty, small government, and America First policies,” and vowed to fight COVID-19 mandates, soaring illegal immigration, and increased government spending.

“For too long, good people have not gotten involved in politics—whether that is because the establishment won’t open the door for them or they don’t want to participate in the foul world of politics. More than anything, this needs to change. And I will be a part of that change,” Mr. Smith said in announcing his Congressional run.

However, the businessman was ultimately defeated in the primary by businessman Bob Healey.

Lorenz Duchamps contributed to this report.