NJ Gym Owner Who Defied COVID Shutdown Cleared of all Charges After Years-Long Legal Battle

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Originally published on www.nypost.com by Steve Janoski 
Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, has been cleared of his charges, according to reports and his attorney. Photo by Stephen Yang

A New Jersey gym owner who defied the Garden State's COVID-19 restrictions was cleared of more than 80 charges relating to a series of pandemic-era confrontations with police -- and he celebrated by posting on social media that the governor could "suck his d-k."

Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti -- co-owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr -- racked up the summonses after they kept their workout spot open in May 2020 despite Gov. Phil Murphy's mandate to close non-essential businesses.

At one point, cops even arrested some gym rats as they left the building -- and the owners were hit with scores of summonses and eventually ordered to pay about $165,000 in fines for violating public health emergency rules, according to NJ.com.

Several of the charges -- which included violating a governor's orders, operating without a mercantile license, creating a public nuisance and disturbing the peace -- could have landed the duo in jail for six months, according to their attorney, John McCann of Oakland, New Jersey.

But late last month, a municipal judge in Winslow Township dropped the charges -- following a nearly four-year legal battle, McCann told the outlet.

"It was a just decision," McCann told The Post on Tuesday, adding that the pair were improperly charged by local authorities.

"[The town] was not acting in good faith."

Smith -- who killed a 17-year-old while driving drunk in 2007, then was arrested for another drunk driving incident in March 2022 -- celebrated his legal victory on Instagram with a post thanking his supporters and insulting the governor.

"This 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," Smith said, although he didn't elaborate about what the "treasonous actions" might be.


Smith and his business partner, Frank Trumbetti, also had to may about $165,000 in state fines for defying the COVID mandates. Photo by Stephen Yang

"Suck my d-k Phil Murphy," the gym owner added.

Neither local nor state officials decided to appeal the ruling, McCann said.

"When you look at this, it didn't make a lot of sense at the time," McCann told NJ.com.


Atilis Gym owner Ian Smith when he announced his candidacy for congress. Photo by Instagram/@iansmithfitness


A police officer issues Atilis Gym co-owners Ian Smith, left, and Frank Trumbetti, center, summons outside their gym in Bellmawr, N.J., in May 2020. Photo by AP

"It kind of looked like they were throwing everything they could at these guys … these charges hung over these guys' heads for over four years."

"We didn't get a lot of cooperation from Bellmawr with regard to discovery," he continued. "The only thing we got with regard to discovery was the summonses."

"You need the reports, you need a whole bunch of stuff," McCann said. "The judge in Winslow said Bellmawr didn't provide their court with meaningful discovery to give to us. She basically said that Bellmawr ignored the requests."


Ian Smith speaks with supporters outside his gym in Bellmawr, N.J. Photo by AP

McCann -- a well-known municipal attorney who once worked for the Bergen County Sheriff's Office -- said he's now trying to retrieve the money the gym owners paid the state in fines.

But he's not sure how it will go.

"That's a very tricky issue," McCann told The Post. "It's very, very complex. And I'm making my way through that."


One of the more than 80 summonses the gym owners received. Photo by Richard Harbus

"Like, is the state trying to destroy people?" McCann added. "Why are you trying to destroy small businesses?"

During the pandemic, Smith accused the state of being selective about which businesses could stay open and which couldn't.

"Telling people that liquor stores are essential but places they can come to work on their physical and mental health is not -- it's just not adding up. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands," Smith said at the time.


Smith tried to run for Congress but was soundly defeated in the GOP primary. Photo by Instagram / @iansmithfitness

McCann maintains that the Atilis' owners didn't make any money off gym memberships during the bulk of the pandemic, the outlet said.

"There was no income coming in but for the GoFundMe money they were raising to fight the state," McCann said, referencing a fundraiser that brought in more than a half-million dollars.

Smith also tried to run for Congress in 2022, but was soundly defeated in the GOP primary.

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