Coronavirus News: Owners of Atilis Gym in New Jersey arrested for defying state orders

BELLMAWR, New Jersey (WABC) -- The owners of a New Jersey gym that repeatedly defied Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order to remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic were arrested Monday.

Frank Trumbetti, 51, and Ian Smith, 33, were each charged with one count of fourth-degree contempt, one count of obstruction, and one count of violation of a disaster control act. They have both since been released.

A state judge ruled Friday that New Jersey authorities could shut down Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, and Smith responeded in a video posted on Facebook that he would remain at the gym and that "we will not back down under any circumstances."

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Christopher Arzberger, an attorney representing the owners, said they 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."

The gym opened its doors in May, starting a legal battle over whether Murphy's order for non-essential businesses to remain closed was constitutional.

It continued to operate despite receiving summonses each day for violating the state order. Crowds of people often showed up to show their support for the gym.

Last week, Murphy allowed outdoor drills for contact sports to resume, as well as one-on-one indoor martial arts and yoga instruction. But gyms remained ordered closed.
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Supporters gather outside of Atilis Gym prior to reopening

The gym owners have said they have taken steps to ensure social distancing, including taping off workout stations and operating at 20% of the building's capacity, meaning about 44 patrons at a time. They also were requiring patrons to wear masks unless they were in the middle of lifting weights, and taking patrons' temperature at the door.

"We understand our clients' concerns," Arzberger said. "Small businesses have been under fire lately and we want to make sure all small businesses have an opportunity to be heard."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Suddenly, the brutal death of George Floyd while in the custody of police officers in Minneapolis filled the streets of a nation with rage and sorrow. New York was no different. Protesters put the fear of the virus aside and took to the streets by the thousands. Abandoning the safety and comfort of social distance, to demand social change.


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