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Atilis Gym owners arrested for violating N.J. coronavirus orders

The owners were arrested a few days after a judge held them in contempt of court for defying state closure orders.

Atilis Gym is pictured in Bellmawr, N.J., on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The gym has reopened against New Jersey's coronavirus restrictions.
Atilis Gym is pictured in Bellmawr, N.J., on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The gym has reopened against New Jersey's coronavirus restrictions.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

The owners of Atilis Gym were arrested Monday morning and the entrance to the Bellmawr gym was boarded up, putting a temporary end to the months-long standoff between the defiant business’ owners and the State of New Jersey.

Ian Smith, 33, and Frank Trumbetti, 51, were charged with fourth-degree contempt, as well as obstruction and violation of a disaster control act, both disorderly persons summonses, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Camden County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the gym about 5 a.m. to arrest the owners when they continued to operate their business after a judge issued a contempt order against them on Friday.

The two refused to leave the gym when asked, leading to the charges, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. Smith and Trumbetti have since been released.

“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,” said a spokesperson for Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “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.”

Trumbetti said that while he and Smith were at the police department, they watched the entrance to the gym get boarded up through their Ring doorbell camera.

» READ MORE: A judge says Bellmawr’s Atilis Gym can remain open if it follows state’s guidelines. The owners say that’s not going to happen.

He said he feels a sense of relief, as he and Smith have been anticipating their arrest for months.

“We need to move forward,” he said. “Now it forces the issue on everything ... the fact that they arrested two guys who are just trying to run a business and keep people healthy.”

“Now I truly believe the backlash and pressure will force them to address this,” he said.

In May, the gym reopened against Gov. Phil Murphy’s shutdown orders. The owners made multiple appearances on Fox News, declaring the orders unconstitutional and garnering a base of national supporters who raised tens of thousands of dollars to help with potential legal fees. Local police wrote municipal citations, and then, on May 22, the New Jersey Department of Health ordered the facility to close indefinitely and changed its locks.

Smith and Trumbetti, represented by New York-based Mermigis Law Group, filed a temporary restraining order against the state orders. The judge denied their request, but said they could reopen solely to operate the nutrition shop inside, deemed an essential business. The owners hosted workouts outside the gym from June 16 through July 4, but then moved the sessions back inside.

» READ MORE: Court rules New Jersey can shut down gym that defied closure

On July 20, Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy in Camden ruled that Atilis must comply completely with an executive order by Murphy that limits indoor gym use to individual training sessions in separate rooms and bars unrestricted public use. The owners refused, and on Friday, the judge held the gym in contempt of court and said the state could shut it down.

The owners took the doors off the hinges to prevent the state from changing their locks again, and began monitoring the facility 24/7. Monday morning, they were taken out in handcuffs.